GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Three teens appeared in court this week on charges related to break-ins at two Kent County gun stores, which occurred within hours of each other early Sunday.
One of the boys is 14 and the other two are 16. Charges against the trio include receiving and concealing stolen firearms and breaking and entering.
An adult believed connected to the break-ins was also arrested on Monday. He’s facing federal prosecution.
The teens are believed responsible for a break-in about 3:30 a.m. Sunday at Imperial Gunworx in Sparta in which 19 handguns were stolen. They are also accused of breaking into the Armory Valentine gun store in Kentwood.
“They are absolutely connected,’’ Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said. “We believe they were done in conjunction with each other.’’
Police recovered some of the stolen weapons on Monday after the suspects were arrested for entering a home under construction on 39th Street west of Buchanan Avenue SW.
The group is not believed responsible for a July 10 break-in at Barracks 616 in Cascade Township or a July 14 break-in at Long Range Archery and Firearms in Holland Township.
Police say 23 guns were taken in the Cascade Township heist. Ottawa County authorities have not disclosed what was taken in the Holland Township break-in.
“It’s not terribly uncommon that they’ll have groups that are almost acting very similar to each other,’’ LaJoye-Young said. “I don’t want to say copy-cat, but they’ll act in a similar manner but be completely unrelated. That appears to be what this case is here.’’
Although several of the stolen guns have been recovered, LaJoye-Young said finding the other firearms is “a critical safety issue for our community.’’
“Often they hide them within the community to be available for use from whomever might want a gun for a criminal offense,’’ she said. “Or they sell it on the black market. If you’re looking to buy a gun on the black market, it typically isn’t for lawful reasons.’’
U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge said investigating gun store thefts and prosecuting those responsible are priorities for federal law enforcement.
“It is important to keep stolen guns off the street for obvious reasons,’’ said Birge, whose office prosecutes federal crimes in western Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
“They can end up in the hands of those who are prohibited from lawfully possessing them or who have bad intentions, or both,’’ Birge said.
A federal judge this week sentenced two people connected to a Dec. 2018 break-in at Graafschap Hardware in Allegan County in which 22 long guns were stolen.
Matteo A. Marroquin was sentenced to 10 years in prison for committing the break-in. Andrew T. Leenheer was sentenced to a little more than 3½ years for possession of a stolen shotgun.
A third person, Lacy L. Zimmerman, was sentenced in May to 10 years for the firearms thefts. In addition to prison, the trio have to pay more than $9,000 in restitution.
The federal penalty for taking guns from a federally-licensed dealer is up to 10 years in prison.
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