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For Immediate Release
March 13, 2003
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
scaine@oag.state.md.us

WORCESTER MAN JAILED FOR POSSESSING, SELLING ILLEGAL GUNS FOR CRACK TO MINORS, OTHERS

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that Thomas Harold Mason, 29, of 2515 Olds Lane, Pocomoke City, was convicted and sentenced for his role in the illegal possession and sale of numerous firearms, including a machine gun, three sawed-off shotguns, three assault weapons, and nine handguns. Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Theodore R. Eschenburg found Mason guilty on one count of possession of machine gun for aggressive purpose, five counts of illegal possession of a regulated firearm, two counts of illegal possession of a short-barreled shotgun, two counts of illegal transfer of a regulated firearm to person under age of 21, and five counts of illegal transfer of a regulated firearm - failure to comply with transfer requirements. Judge Eschenburg sentenced Mason to 15 years of incarceration at the Division of Corrections, and suspended all but four years, which he is to immediately begin serving. Judge Eschenburg also placed Mason on five years of supervised probation upon his release, and ordered that all weapons seized in this case be forfeited to the State.

The facts underlying these convictions are that during the first week of June 2002, the Pocomoke City Police Department received information from concerned citizens that a man named "Tom" was selling guns for crack cocaine in the area known as "the dock" in Pocomoke City. Reportedly, "Tom" had already given handguns to a number of individuals whom the police department knew to frequent the area, and whom they believed were involved in the sale of crack cocaine. In addition, police began to notice a sharp rise in gun-related crimes that appeared consistent with an influx of guns into the community.

Around the mid-June, a juvenile surrendered a handgun to police that he claimed was purchased from a man he knew as "Tom" several weeks earlier at the "dock." The juvenile later identified "Tom" as Thomas Harold Mason, and further informed the police that he purchased the gun from Mason in exchange for crack cocaine. The juvenile also identified a number of other people that he knew purchased guns with crack cocaine from Mason in the recent weeks, some of which were also minors. This juvenile also told police that Mason had inherited a large number of weapons from his recently deceased father, who was a former D.C. police officer. The juvenile told police that Mason was continuing to try to sell firearms, including sawed-off shotguns and assault weapons.

Shortly thereafter, a minor was arrested for distribution of a controlled dangerous substance. When questioned about the sale of guns in the area, the minor identified in detail a number of people who had given Mason drugs for guns, which was strikingly similar to the information provided by the first juvenile police discovered. This minor was also able to give extensive detail on how Mason was conducting business, and what firearms he had available for sale.

Pocomoke City, along with the Maryland State Police Firearms Investigation Unit and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, then began a joint investigation of Mason. Their investigation confirmed the information provided by the minors, including that Thomas Mason was in possession of a large number of firearms that he had recently inherited from his father. They were also able to confirm through tracing that some of the weapons allegedly sold by Mason were originally owned by Mason’s father. They also discovered that Mason had been convicted in Virginia in 1998 of assault, and that conviction prohibited him from possessing regulated firearms in Maryland.

After additional investigation, police obtained a search and seizure warrant for Mason’s residence, which had been owned by his deceased father. On July 3, 2002, they executed that warrant, and in doing so found a machine gun, five handguns, three sawed-off shotguns, and 28 rifles/shotguns. Additionally, there were thousands of rounds of ammunition located within the residence. Mason was then placed under arrest, and subsequently confessed to having traded 10 firearms, including handguns and assault weapons, to drug dealers for crack cocaine.

Not long after Mason’s arrest, another gun previously owned by Mason’s father was recovered after having been used in a 1st degree assault in Pocomoke City. The person arrested for using the gun to threaten another person claimed that he purchased the guns in late May when he learned that a boy named "Tom" had a couple of guns for sell and would sell him two guns for the price of one. This individual stated that it was a deal too good to turn down, and he bought the weapons despite the fact he was legally prohibited from possessing such weapons because of prior criminal convictions. To date, despite continuing efforts by the law enforcement agencies involved, several of the weapons sold by Mason to individuals have not been recovered.

This case was investigated by the Maryland State Police, Firearms Investigation Unit, the Pocomoke City Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and was prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General, Firearms Trafficking Unit, Criminal Investigations Division. Funding for Operation Crime Gun comes from a grants received from the Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention, and the Maryland State Police Cease Fire Council.

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