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

February 25, 2002 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357


Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that Margaret Marie Sermons, 45, of 3543 Hepburn Court, Burtonsville, was sentenced for her role in purchasing four handguns for the purpose of giving those guns to individuals she knew to be prohibited from possessing the guns. Sermons pled guilty on October 4, 2001, to two counts of Straw Purchase of a Regulated Firearm, and two counts of False Application to Purchase a Regulated Firearm. The Honorable Louise G. Scrivener sentenced Sermons to five years, with all but nine months suspended. Sermons must begin serving that nine months immediately in the Montgomery County Detention Center, and after her release, Sermons will be on 18 months of supervised probation.

Between June 12 through November 16, 2000, Sermons purchased four handguns from gun shops in Montgomery County. Each time she applied to purchase a handgun, she denied on both state and federal forms that she was buying the gun for someone else. Nevertheless, as she made the fourth purchase, the gun shop became suspicious of her intentions. The gun shop was concerned that, given the types of guns she was buying and the presence of other people with her that appeared to be directing her to certain guns, Sermons was acting as a straw purchaser. The store contacted the Maryland State Police Cease Fire Unit, and reported their suspicion.

Members of the Cease Fire Unit arrived at her house shortly after she received the fourth gun, and discovered that she did not have any of the four guns in her possession. Sermons claimed that one handgun had been stolen, although she conceded she had never reported it stolen. Sermons claimed two of the guns were with her brother in North Carolina, and that the remaining one was accidentally left by her in the trunk of the car of a friend that had taken her to pick up the gun from the gun shop.

Further investigation by troopers revealed, however, that her brother had been deceased for over five years and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms provided tracing information that showed two of the guns had been recently recovered from crime scenes in other jurisdictions. One handgun was recovered by the Prince George’s County Police Department from a mall parking lot after they responded to investigate a call that a fight was taking place. Another gun was recovered in Washington, D.C. from a man who was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and convicted, for selling crack cocaine and illegally possessing the handgun Sermons had purchased only a few months earlier.

As the investigation expanded to other jurisdictions, agents from the Baltimore Office of the ATF joined the investigation along with the Office of the Attorney General and the Maryland State Police. This investigation ultimately revealed that Sermons was buying these guns for drug dealers and violent offenders living in the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County area, and that she knew the individuals that had been caught illegally possessing two of the guns, and that their was an actual "waiting list" for guns from those in the drug trade.

"This case is a perfect example of the depth of the gun trafficking problem and why Operation Crime Gun is so important to keeping guns out of the wrong hands," Attorney General Curran said.

This case was investigated by the Cease Fire Unit of the Maryland State Police, as well as the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms, and was 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 Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention.