Kent man pleads guilty to ‘straw purchaser’ scheme involving over 100 trafficked firearms

A Kent man last week pleaded guilty to a "straw purchaser" scheme, helping traffick more than 100 firearms since 2021.

Dion Jamar Cooper, 31, of Kent pleaded guilty to two counts of false statements and a count of trafficking firearms, all in connection to a years-long scheme that investigators caught onto in Jan. 2023.

According to a criminal complaint, a suspect tried to rob a woman in Rainier Valley, but she was able to speed away in her car. The suspect dropped their gun in her car when she escaped, which police tracked back to Cooper—it was reportedly purchased on Dec. 10, 2022. The ATF then checked Cooper's purchase history and found he had bought 107 guns since June 2021.

Authorities say 26 of those guns have been recovered and linked to crimes.

"Mr. Cooper lied on purchase forms and then trafficked more than 100 firearms on the streets of our community. He trafficked to those who are prohibited from possessing guns, because of their criminal history. It is not surprising that more than two dozen of the firearms have been linked to crimes," said U.S. Attorney Gorman. "Congress has responded to the epidemic of gun violence with new laws targeting such "straw purchasing" and we are using them in this case."

Investigators kept tabs on Cooper, who made arrangements to buy guns with associate De'ondre Lamontia Phillips. Phillips is barred from possessing firearms due to previous convictions for distribution of heroin, possession of illegal firearms and two counts of assault. These charges date back as far as 2009.

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Phillips reportedly drove Cooper to area gun shops, who would buy the guns legally, then turn them over to Phillips for trafficking.

Phillips pleaded guilty to drug and gun possession crimes in January, and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 26, 2024.

Cooper is scheduled to be sentenced on May 17, 2024. Straw purchasing of firearms and firearms trafficking are both punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and making false statements in connection to buying guns is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.