PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha and Central Falls Police Chief Anthony Roberson announced that a former Iowa man has been sentenced in Providence County Superior Court to serve five-years at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) after pleading to his role in a firearms trafficking scheme involving the straw purchase of several firearms in Rhode Island.
Marcos Castellanos (age 21) entered a plea of nolo contendere to one count of conspiracy to straw purchase a firearm, conspiracy to sell concealable weapons without paperwork, one count of carrying a pistol without a license, one count of possession of a firearm with obliterated serial numbers, and one count of solicitation to sell concealable weapons without proper paperwork.
At a hearing on February 7, 2023, before Superior Court Justice Robert D. Krause, the Court sentenced the defendant to 10 years, with five years to serve at the ACI, and a five-year suspended sentence with 10 years of probation.
“This Office, along with our partners in law enforcement have made a concerted effort to target individuals that are driving violent crime in the greater Providence area,” said Attorney General Neronha. “Straw purchases of firearms are a major source of illegal firearms in Rhode Island and this case represents the type of proactive law enforcement that can shut off these pipelines. I am grateful to the continued partnership of the local, state, and federal agencies involved in our initiative, especially the Central Falls Police Department, here.”
Had the case proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that between November 2021 to February 2022, the defendant executed a straw purchasing scheme where he directed a co-defendant, Danasia Machado, to buy firearms on his behalf, and then sell them to unidentified buyers.
The straw purchase of a firearm is a crime where an individual buys a firearm on behalf of another to avoid federal and state background checks, which are designed to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals who are precluded by law from buying them themselves.
In December 2021, investigators from the Central Falls Police Department and the Office of the Attorney General initiated an investigation into allegations that the co-defendants were involved in a scheme to straw purchase firearms.
Investigators determined that Marcos Castellanos directed Danasia Machado to purchase two guns, a Smith & Wesson .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun and a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm semi-automatic handgun, on his behalf. The co-defendants attempted to purchase a third firearm, but investigators intervened and prevented the sale from happening.
The defendant also removed serial numbers from the two straw purchased guns before selling them to associates.
“The Central Falls Police Department continues to work with our federal, state, and local partners to combat straw purchases,” said Central Falls Police Chief Colonel Anthony Roberson. “In a continued effort to prevent these firearms from reaching the hands of criminals, the Central Falls Police Department collaborates with a variety of stakeholders in an effort to keep our residents safe. The reduction of violent crime in our communities continues to be the mission.”
The case against Danasia Machado remains pending in Providence County Superior Court.
Detective Paul Savoie of the Central Falls Police Department and Investigators Eric Yankee and Mark Baker and Assistant Attorney General Joseph McBurney led the investigation and prosecution of the case, with assistance from the Rhode Island State Police and the Providence Police Department.
Urban Violent Crime Initiative
The cases were investigated under an initiative that began in 2021, by the Office of the Attorney General; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls Police Departments; and the Department of Corrections to proactively target violent crime and firearms trafficking in the greater Providence Area.
The Attorney General has deputized officers from law enforcement agencies in Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls to provide greater ability to investigate suspects across municipal jurisdictions. As part of this initiative, prosecutors, investigators, and analysts work together to gather data and intelligence, analyze the information to support investigations and prosecutions, and guide violent crime enforcement priorities. The partner agencies have prioritized information sharing and analysis across agencies through the use of a data analyst and platform – funded through a Department of Justice grant awarded to the Office of the Attorney General in 2020.
Recently, the Office of the Attorney General purchased a National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) machine, only one of two in the entire state, using asset forfeiture funds, that will allow for the capture and comparison of ballistic evidence to aid in solving and preventing violent crimes involving firearms.
Using these tools, the team can quickly draw connections between different crime scenes and weave together police reports and other records to help identify suspects and witnesses.