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05-01-03: Arrests made for guns stolen locally
Law officers believe weapons may have been used in crimes

The Daily Standard

    Charges have been filed in U.S. District Court in Dayton against two Shelby County men for stealing more than 200 weapons from gun shops in Mercer, Shelby and Champaign counties and then selling them for illegal drugs in other states.
    U.S. Magistrate Judge Sharon L. Ovington on Wednesday issued arrest warrants for John David Kuehne, 25, 729 W. North St., Sidney, and Nathan Wayne Marlow, 20, 1125 Evergreen St., Sidney. They are to be held without bond pending the outcome of a preliminary hearing set for 10:30 a.m. Friday.
    The charges of conspiring to burglarize firearms from three federal firearms license holders, aiding and abetting the transfer of firearms for drugs and for being felons in possession of firearms carry sentences in excess of 10 years.
    The Mercer County Sheriff's Office responded to a reported breaking and entering at Niekamp Farm & Flea Market, U.S. 127 and Olding Road, St. Henry, on the morning of Feb. 13. Someone had pried open a back door on a converted poultry barn that houses the gun shop.
    Missing from the premises were 113 semiautomatic handguns and a .12-gauge shotgun, reportedly taken from displays and safes at the business. Ten silver dollars and a knife also were taken from a display area. The manager indicated some ammunition and gun cleaning supplies also appeared to be missing.
    The breaking and entering did not take local detectives Kip Wright and Pat Elking by surprise. They had been receiving information from other jurisdictions regarding weapon thefts and the possibility of a ring of thieves operating in the area. Consequently, the sheriff's office warned both federal firearms license holders in Mercer County, Neikamp's and Kremer's Guns, 123 Hamilton St., Celina.
    The Shelby County Sheriff's Department was investigating the Dec. 12 theft of 56 firearms from Rich-Mart Guns and Ammo near Fort Loramie. Champaign County deputies also had an unsolved case on their hands involving the theft of 35 handguns from Craig's Gun Shop in North Lewisburg.
    During numerous interviews conducted in Shelby County, Wright and Elking learned the suspects had visited Niekamp's prior to the actual theft to familiarize themselves with the surroundings. Their return visit occurred at some point between Feb. 9 and 12.
    "We're talking about handguns in rather compact boxes and not rifles or shotguns in bigger cases," Wright told The Daily Standard. "They simply loaded the weapons into the trunk and backseat and went on their merry way back to Shelby County."
    Weapons taken from the area businesses have begun to surface throughout the state, along with in New York, Kentucky and Tennessee. Wright likens the growing circle to the ripples formed when a stone is cast into the lake.
    Marlow has admitted making multiple trips to New York to dispose of guns from the three break-ins, according to a deposition filed in federal court by Dennis D. Bennett, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Sixty guns from the Mercer County business were taken there on one of the trips. The firearms were exchanged with someone known only as "12 O'Clock" for the drug Ecstasy at the rate of 600 to 1,000 pills per 30 guns. Other local guns reportedly were sold to a man known only as Craig, who transported them to Kentucky.
    Wright describes the distribution network as a food chain of sorts, with multiple tiers feeding on each other. Kuehne reportedly met a contact while serving time in prison. He in turn knew 12 O'Clock, who "was connected to a popular rapper in New York and needed firearms because he was in some kind of conflict with another rapper," Bennett stated in the deposition.
    "It is very difficult to register guns in New York and that's where the big cry for elicit guns is coming from," Elking said.
    The serial numbers of all the stolen weapons have been entered into the National Crime Information Center. Local authorities will be notified as the handguns surface or in the event they are used in the commission of crimes. One Mercer County gun was recovered from the scene of a homicide in New Rochelle, N.Y., although detectives are not sure whether it was in the possession of the victim or the shooter.
    "We have recovered more than 30 to date," Wright said. "I suspect our guns will be turning up for sometime to come."
    A cooperative effort led to the federal charges, which detectives believe, are merely the first with more to come in the months ahead. In addition to authorities in Shelby and Champaign counties, the local detectives also worked with special agents from ATF offices in Toledo and Dayton.


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