NORRISTOWN PA – A 30-year-old Lower Pottsgrove man was arrested as the alleged leader of a local organization trafficking illegal firearms, and five other individuals from Pottstown, Stowe, Birdsboro, Reading, and Philadelphia also were arrested as alleged members of the gun sales group, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele announced Friday (Feb. 3, 2017). A sixth individual, for whom an arrest warrant was issued, is still being sought.
Michael Hill, of the 2900 block of Walnut Ridge Estates, faces 93 separate counts of various crimes, including corrupt organizations, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, unlawful transfer of a firearm, unsworn falsification, person not to possess firearms, criminal use of communications facilities, and related offenses, according to docket sheets from the Sanatoga courtroom of Magisterial District Justice Edward Kropp.
Steele, in a press release, claimed Hill created and operated a network of individuals who worked on his behalf to purchase guns for sale to other persons, also called “straw purchases.” Hill was the subject of what Steele called a “lengthy investigation” involving the county Detective Bureau’s Violent Crimes Unit, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the Lower Pottsgrove, West Pottsgrove, and Pottstown police departments.
During the course of the investigation, Steele said, 13 firearms – including multiple handguns, semi-automatic weapons and a long rifle – were directly connected to the members of the organization as guns that were in their possession, purchased by them, attempted to be purchased by them, or were distributed by their group. “We successfully seized a number of weapons in the search of Michael Hill’s residence,” he added.
Walnut Ridge Estates, the community where Hill lived, is filled with children who attend Pottsgrove School District schools.
Hill was arraigned before the judge Friday morning, and failed to make cash bail set at $500,000. He was jailed at the county Correctional Facility in Eagleville PA, and awaits a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 3.
Also arrested, and all charged with corrupt organizations, unlawful transfer of a firearm, criminal use of communications facilities, unsworn falsification, and related offenses were
- Phillipe DeJohnette, 24, of Stowe;
- Corey DeJohnette, 23, of Pottstown;
- Chad Hill, 18, of Birdsboro;
- Andrew Person, 30, of Reading; and
- Anthony Walker, 28, of Philadelphia.
All were jailed after failing to make bail: Phillipe DeJohnette, Corey DeJohnette, and Walker, of $500,000 each; and Chad Hill and Person, $100,000 each.
- Jennifer Bender, 28, of Pottstown, was similarly charged, is the warrant subject, and has yet to be brought into custody.
The others allegedly conspired with Hill to purchase illegal firearms, make materially false statements on the applications or records of gun sales, and recruit others to assist them, according to Steele. Hill was also involved in trafficking illegal pills, heroin, and methamphetamine, the DA claimed.
The investigation “was initiated by several astute law enforcement personnel, connecting the dots on two guns used in two separate crimes by persons not legally allowed to have a gun,” Steele said. Straw purchases like those reportedly involved in this case “start the cycle of violence by putting firearms into the hands of criminals. Anyone who illegally purchases, illegally transfers or illegally possesses a gun threatens the safety of our communities,” ATF Special Agent in Charge Sam Rabadi explained.
Steele said the case will be prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Brianna Ringwood, captain of the Community Prosecution Unit, and Assistant District Attorney Robert Kolansky. He praised police chiefs Michael Foltz of Lower Pottsgrove, Matthew Stofflet of West Pottsgrove, and F. Richard Drumheller of Pottstown for their assistance and that of their officers during the investigation.
Individuals photos from the Montgomery County District Attorney; gun photo from Google Images