BURLINGTON — A Springfield, Mass., area man, who officials said was part of a “lying and buying” scheme to obtain guns illegally at Bennington County stores and take them across state lines, was sentenced Friday to one year and one day in federal prison.
Emilio Garcia, 26, was charged in U.S. District Court in Burlington in 2019 in connection with a former Pownal man, who federal officials said was part of an arrangement to trade illegally purchased firearms for heroin in North Adams, Mass., court records show.
Garcia, also known as Emilio Garcia-Cappas, was facing a possible 30 to 37 months under the federal sentencing guidelines, which are advisory.
However, the defense and prosecution agreed to propose a shorter sentence because Garcia had been detained on state charges earlier following a drug raid in North Adams, officials said.
Federal officials in Vermont wanted to proceed with its Dec. 5, 2019 indictment, but state officials in Massachusetts had refused various requests to surrender Garcia. He was still serving a two-year sentence at the Hampden County House of Correction for a drug conviction there.
Garcia will get credit from Oct. 20, 2022, when the U.S. Marshals Service finally brought him back to Vermont. Garcia had used Adam D. Whitman of Pownal to make purchases at gun shops in Bennington and Pownal over a few days in January 2017, court records show. Whitman had falsely claimed the guns were for him when buying them — knowing they were going out of state, records show.
In December 2019, Whitman, then 27, was sentenced to time served — more than five months in prison — and was ordered to have his family drive him directly to Valley Vista, a drug rehabilitation center in Bradford, immediately after court adjourned.
Chief Federal Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford said Friday the illegal purchase of firearms is a serious problem and can end up being used in crimes.
He told Garcia now was “time to make a change” in his lifestyle of crime.
Garcia said in court he had been in prison for almost 29 straight months and he was prepared to move on with his life. He asked for a “time served” sentence, but the judge declined.
By having one day added on to a one year sentence, Garcia will be eligible to earn up to 54 days of good time if he behaves in prison. Federal sentences of one year or less are not eligible for good time reductions.
Defense lawyer Will Kraham of Brattleboro estimated in court Garcia could be home by August. Kraham told the court Garcia’s mother and older sister wanted to be at the sentencing, but apparently were delayed on the road from Chicopee, Mass.
Crawford told Garcia he will be under three years of federal supervised release once freed from prison. Crawford said he expects it will be in Massachusetts so he can be closer to his family.
Kraham said his client had no preference on the federal prison to complete his sentence.
Kraham had initially filed his sentencing memo under seal, but the Vermont News & Media protested. The newspaper believed the public needed to know all arguments being made to influence the court sentence.
Crawford sided with transparency on Friday. He said issues about Garcia’s education and psychological testing or details about the offense should be public. Crawford did agree to redact one residential address only in the 10-page memo. The rest is in the public file at the courthouse.
“He is tired of being locked up — he wants to go home, be with his family, get a job, get his GED, and stay out of trouble,” Kraham wrote.
Kraham noted Garcia’s twin brother was murdered in Puerto Rico in 2016.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugenia A. P. Cowles, who took the case over from now retired federal prosecutor William Darrow, said the government would have normally asked for a stiffer sentence.
Garcia, who was indicted on four felony counts, pleaded guilty in November 2022 to the main charge: Conspiracy to defraud the United States by buying guns in Vermont and transporting them to Massachusetts between December 2016 and January 2017.
He also faced a charge for making false statements during the purchase of a Smith & Wesson 9 mm semi-automatic pistol from Lost Target Shooting Supplies in Pownal on Jan. 23, 2017.
The indictment also said Garcia made false statements at the Bennington Trading Post on Northside Drive on Jan. 25 and 26, 2017 while buying a Taurus 9 mm pistol and a Ruger .380 pistol, along with two 50-round boxes of ammunition.
The fourth charge asserted that on Jan. 23, 2017, Garcia, while not being a licensed importer, transported the 9 mm pistol bought earlier in the day in Pownal to Massachusetts.
Garcia and Whitman had gone to the Bennington Trading Post for the purchase of two guns Jan. 25, 2017, and were told they could be picked up the following day, records show.
The morning of Jan. 26, 2017, an individual referred to in court papers as the “heroin dealer” was arrested by authorities looking into drug trafficking in North Adams, about 10 miles southeast of Pownal, records show. Whitman was arrested that afternoon when he arrived at the Bennington Trading Post to pick up the two new guns, officials said.
The 9 mm Smith & Wesson semiautomatic, which was bought a few days earlier, was eventually seized during a June 2017 drug raid at the Holyoke, Mass., apartment of another alleged heroin dealer, court records show.
Whitman’s supervised release was eventually transferred to the Albany, N.Y., area, where his mother lived.