DNA from robbery tool led to conviction in gun shop thefts

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Ahkeem Pratt
Ahkeem Donte Pratt

A Fayetteville man has been sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison for stealing nearly 200 firearms from various gun shops in North Carolina, including two stores in Wilmington.

Ahkeem Donte Pratt, 24, was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge James C. Fox to 188 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office Spokesman Don Connelly.

Pratt pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on Nov. 30, 2015 to charges of conspiracy, theft of firearms from a Federal Firearms Licensee, possession of a firearm by a felon and interstate transportation of stolen firearms.

He was named on a 17-count federal indictment in March 2015, charging him and several other co-defendants with breaking into five North Carolina gun stores between August and December 2014, and stealing 193 firearms, 82 of which were stolen out of Wilmington.

On Aug. 28, 2014, Pratt and two other co-defendants broke into Wilmington Guns at 7213 Market St. and took 39 handguns from the store, according the indictment. The following day the three defendants reportedly traveled to Camden, New Jersey, where they sold the stolen firearms.

The three were charged with hitting another Wilmington gun store on Nov. 7 2014, when Pratt and the two co-defendants broke into Bullzeye Shooting Sports at 5942 Market Street and took 43 firearms. Again, the defendants reportedly drove to the same town in New Jersey in the days following the theft to sell the stolen guns.

Pratt was charged with taking firearms from other stores in Clinton, Dunn and Calypso. He was arrested by agents with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in North Carolina on April 13, 2015.

“Pratt and his co-defendants used various tools, including bolt cutters and hammers, to gain entry into such businesses to steal the firearms,” Connelly said. “Agents were able to obtain DNA from one of the tools left behind at the scene of a robbery and it matched a co-defendant.”

Most of the incidents were captured on store surveillance video, Connelly said. The stolen firearms were ultimately recovered from crime scenes in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey, among other places. The crimes to which the recovered firearms were linked included various violent crimes, including rape, a robbery, and a murder.

Investigation of this case was conducted by the ATF. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Randa represented the government. The two remaining co-defendants will be sentenced at later dates.