Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.

June 1, 2001 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357

Operations Crime Gun and Ceasefire Partner to Combat Illegal Gun Sales

Baltimore - Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that Margaret Marie Sermons, 44, of 3543 Hepburn Court, Burtonsville, Montgomery County, has been charged with 17 criminal offenses stemming from her alleged participation in the straw purchase of four handguns from June 12 through November 16, 2000. When the Maryland State Police approached Sermons after she had made her last purchase, they discovered that none of the handguns were actually in her possession.

Sermons is charged with one count of conspiring to engage in the straw purchase of four handguns on four separate occasions. As to that charge, Sermons could receive five years incarceration and/or a $10,000 fine. In addition, Sermons is charged with false application to purchase a regulated firearm, perjury, straw purchase of a regulated firearm, and illegal transfer of a regulated firearm. As to the false application charges, Sermons could be sentenced to three years and/or a $5,000 fine for each handgun. Sermons is eligible to receive a 10-year sentence for each handgun on the perjury charge. All other charges involving the illegal straw purchase subject Sermons to five years incarceration and/or a $10,000 fine for each handgun. Sermons is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

A straw purchase occurs when an individual uses another person, the straw purchaser, to complete the application to purchase a regulated firearm. A straw purchase is often employed by individuals who are themselves prohibited from legally possessing a firearm because of such disqualifying events like prior criminal convictions. The straw purchaser, who is not disqualified to possess a regulated firearm, then takes initial possession of that firearm, subsequently transferring it to the disqualified individual.

This case was investigated by the Cease Fire Unit of the Maryland State Police and will be prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General, Special Crimes Unit, Criminal Investigations Division, in connection with a partnership the two agencies have formed to further efforts to combat handgun violations. Funding for Operation Crime Gun comes from a grant received from the Governorís Office on Crime Control and Prevention.