March 13, 2003
Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
MAN JAILED FOR POSSESSING, SELLING ILLEGAL GUNS FOR CRACK TO MINORS,
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
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.
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 Masons 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 Masons 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 Masons arrest, another gun previously owned
by Masons 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 Governors Office on
Crime Control and Prevention, and the Maryland State Police Cease