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United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania

12/02/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/03/2020 11:39

Erie Man Charged with Drug and Gun Crimes

ERIE, Pa. - A former resident of Erie, Pennsylvania has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of violating federal firearms and narcotics laws, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

The three-count Indictment named Joseph Russell Wayne, Jr., 31, as the sole defendant.

According to the Indictment presented to the court, on November 17, 2020, Wayne possessed a Smith and Wesson, .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun in furtherance of the unlawful possession of marijuana, and additionally possessed a Smith and Wesson, 9mm semi-automatic handgun while prohibited under federal law. The Indictment alleged a total of $462,789.40 in assets are subject to forfeiture as proceeds of the unlawful distribution of marijuana by Wayne.

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of life in prison, a fine of $750,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Paul S. Sellers is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Pennsylvania State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General conducted the investigation leading to the Indictment in this case. Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice's violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice's signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the Fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department's past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. For more information about Project Guardian, please see www.justice.gov/projectguardian.

An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.