PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced today that two Providence men were sentenced last week in Providence County Superior Court to serve a combined 16 years at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) after pleading to their roles in a scheme to sell firearms to individuals who were legally prohibited from possessing them.
Theodore Braxton (age 31) pleaded nolo contendere to one count each of conspiracy to sell concealable weapons illegally, conspiracy to sell firearms to forbidden persons, and possession of a firearm after being convicted of a crime of violence.
At a hearing on January 26, 2021, before Superior Court Justice Joseph A. Montalbano, the court sentenced Braxton to 20 years at the ACI, with 12 years to serve and the balance suspended with probation.
Ralph Gbaie (age 31) pleaded nolo contendere to one count each of conspiracy to sell concealable weapons illegally, conspiracy to sell firearms to forbidden persons, and possession of a firearm after being convicted of a crime of violence.
At a hearing on January 28, 2021, before Judge Montalbano, the court sentenced Gbaie to nine years at the ACI, with four years to serve and the balance suspended with probation.
"Illegal firearms are the driving factor for so much of the violent crime committed in Rhode Island communities," said Attorney General Neronha. "The defendants here planned and executed a scheme to funnel illegal firearms to individuals who should never be in possession of them. 'Straw purchases' like these have only one purpose – to avoid the federal and state background checks designed to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals precluded by law from buying them themselves."
Had the cases proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that in August 2020, Braxton and Gbaie participated in a scheme along with co-conspirators to purchase firearms from D&L Shooting Supplies in Warwick, then sell them to individuals who were legally prohibited from possessing firearms.
"Firearms trafficking remains ATF's top priority and this investigation is another example of how, through the use of a straw purchaser, firearms are trafficked and end up in the hands of criminals," said Kelly D. Brady, ATF Special Agent in Charge, Boston Field. "For Theodore Braxton and Ralph Gbaie, and others like them, significant prison sentences should serve as clear warning that there is nothing more important to the Rhode Island Attorney General, the Providence Police and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms than insuring the safety of our communities."
Along with Braxton and Gbaie, Amerlia Holmes and Russell Decruz are alleged to have participated in the illegal scheme and are facing multiple felony charges. Their cases are currently pending.
The scheme involved Holmes purchasing firearms from D&L Shooting Supplies in Warwick, then delivering them to Braxton and Gbaie. Braxton then sold firearms to individuals who were legally prohibited from possessing firearms. Gbaie planned to do the same but fell short of selling any firearms.
Braxton, Gbaie, and Holmes developed the scheme because Braxton and Gbaie were legally prohibited from possessing firearms in Rhode Island because they were previously convicted of crimes of violence. Under Rhode Island law, individuals convicted of certain violent crimes are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.
When members of the Providence Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested Braxton at his apartment, they found a Springfield .380 pistol in his possession, identified as one of the pistols that Holmes purchased for him.
When members of the Providence Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested Gbaie at his apartment, they found a Glock .22 caliber pistol under his mattress, which he was precluded from possessing.
"Individuals putting guns in the hands of criminals who will use them to perpetuate violence is the root cause of investigations of this nature. Federal, state and local law enforcement will continue to be aggressive in holding violators responsible for contributing to gun violence," said Steven M. Paré, Providence Commissioner of Public Safety. "We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Office of the Attorney General in a coordinated effort to bring an end to the distribution and flow of guns within the streets of Providence."
Detective Theodore Michael of the Providence Police Department and Special Agent Christian Jardin of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives led the investigation into the case. Assistant Attorney General Joseph McBurney and Special Assistant Attorney General Katelyn Revens prosecuted the case on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.