MIL-OSI Security: Leader of Machine Gun Switch Distribution Conspiracy Sentenced to 70 Months in Federal Prison

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Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) State Crime Alerts (b)

U.S. Attorney Mark Totten commits to prioritize cases involving the distribution of switches, which are fueling the national gun violence epidemic

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that Torez Burnett, 21, of Benton Harbor, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison. Burnett imported machine gun conversion devices, or “switches,” from China and distributed them to members of his street gang, My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), and others in Benton Harbor and Grand Rapids. When installed, switches convert semiautomatic handguns into fully automatic machineguns that can fire a thousand rounds of ammunition per minute.

          “Switches pose an extremely dangerous risk to our communities, our children, our law enforcement officers, and anyone who stands in the way of their indiscriminate spray,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “A year ago, switches were seldom seen. Now they’re everywhere. My office will use every resource we have to disrupt the gun trafficking rings bringing these lethal devices into our communities.” 

          On December 15, 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan announced charges against 10 defendants, including Burnett. On May 11, 2023, Burnett pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to possess and transfer machine guns and the charge of possession and transfer of a machine gun. Burnett distributed switches to buyers in at least Benton Harbor and Grand Rapids. Some of his buyers included fellow members of MBK. The previous press release can be viewed by visiting the following link: Eleven Men Face Drug And Firearm Charges, Including For Sale Of “Switches” That Turn Semi-Automatic Pistols Into Fully Automatic Machineguns.

          The nine other defendants have also pleaded guilty.  The court has sentenced six of them:

Defendant

Sentence

Jayvon Anthony

84 months

Demarcus Greely

38 months

Nicholas Hallo

46 months

Demitrius Seuell

33 months

Omarion Branch

38 months

Eric Williams

24 months

          Sentencing hearings for Timothy Thomas and Quincy Bowman are scheduled for November 29, 2023.  The Court has not yet scheduled sentencing for Armando Villanueva.

          “Holding those accountable who flood our streets with illegal weapons is a huge step forward in curtailing the violence in our community,” said Benton Harbor Director of Public Safety Daniel McGinnis. “We thank our local, state, and federal partners for their dedication and commitment to working together to ensure the safety of Benton Harbor residents.”

          “Mr. Burnett and other defendants from the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) gang are rightfully facing appropriate consequences for their violent and reckless behavior in importing machine gun conversion devices into our community,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “Thanks to the efforts of the Benton Harbor Safe Streets Task Force and our law enforcement partners, a dangerous criminal enterprise that directly threatened Michigan residents was disrupted. The FBI is committed to removing dangerous criminals from our communities and will continue to work with our partners to achieve the goal of a safer Michigan.”

          “Machine gun conversion devices are a threat to our community and public safety. They are not toys and cannot be imported illegally from China,” said ATF Detroit Special Agent in Charge James Deir. “Mr. Burnett chose to illegally import these devices from China and through his excessive greed, he chose to arm known gang members with fully automatic machine guns. In the end, Mr. Burnett will have a considerable amount of time in prison to reflect on his poor decision making.”

          This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety, Berrien County Sherriff’s Department, Homeland Security Investigations, Michigan State Police, Benton Charter Township Police Department, Pokagon Band Tribal Police Department, Grand Rapids Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Michigan Department of Corrections and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.     

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