GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who federal investigators was behind a conspiracy to distribute “Glock switches,” which essentially convert semi-automatic pistols into machine guns, will spend years in a federal prison.
Torez Burnett, 21, of Benton Harbor, was sentenced to five years, 10 months behind bars, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Burnett was among several people charged in December as part of a conspiracy. The feds say Burnett got the switches from China and gave or sold them to members of his street gang, called My Brother’s Keeper or MBK, and other people in Benton Harbor and Grand Rapids.
“Mr. Burnet(t) chose to illegally import these devices from China and through his excessive greed, he chose to arm known gang members with fully automatic machine guns,” ATF Detroit Special Agent in Charge James Deir said in a statement. “In the end, Mr. Burnet(t) will have a considerable amount of time in prison to reflect on his poor decision making.”
Burnett in May pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to possess and transfer machine guns and possession and transfer of a machine gun. The U.S. Attorney’s Office says nine other defendants have pleaded guilty in their cases, too. In addition to Burnett, six of them have been sentenced:
- Jayvon Anthony: Seven years
- Demarcus Greely: Three years, two months
- Nicholas Hallo: Three years, 10 months
- Demitrius Seuell: Two years, nine months
- Omarion Branch: Three years, two months
- Eric Williams: Two years
Sentencing is still pending for three more defendants: Quincy Bowman and Timothy Thomas are scheduled to go before a judge on Nov. 29, but a sentencing date has not yet been set for Armando Villanueva.
“A year ago, switches were seldom seen. Now they’re everywhere,” U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said in a statement. “My office will use every resource we have to disrupt the gun trafficking rings bringing these lethal devices into our communities.”
CHIEF: MORE SWITCHES, MORE UNINTENDED TARGETS
According to Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom, switches are still a fairly new issue for law enforcement.
“I would say it’s been about five years and the problem has been increasing,” Winstrom said.
This year, GRPD has recovered around 12 of the devices, including three that may have been used in murders. By adding switches to guns, Winstrom says the impact can go beyond a shooter’s target.
“You take away the ability of anyone, including me, or someone who is a trained marksman to aim that gun. It makes it extremely dangerous for people in the area, unintended targets,” Winstrom said.
In addition to being bought overseas, switches are being 3D printed as well, which Winstrom says raises more concerns.
“To have something so dangerous and so deadly that is somewhat easy for even a not-so-technically-savvy individual to produce has been a challenge for law enforcement,” Winstrom said.
Although they face some challenges, law enforcement says they will continue to go after those responsible for the devices being on the streets.
“We want to send a message to anybody that is engaged in or is considering this type of criminal activity, that there will be consequences,” Totten said.