Bristol, Virginia Man Pleads Guilty to Illegal Possession of a Machinegun, a Silencer, and Other Firearms

Last Updated on October 26, 2020 8:35 am

ABINGDON, Virginia – A Bristol, Virginia man pleaded guilty on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 in U.S. District Court in Abingdon to three federal gun charges related to offenses occurring in both the Western District of Virginia and the Western District of North Carolina. Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar of the Western District of Virginia, United States Attorney Andrew R. Murray of the Western District of North Carolina, and Ashan M. Benedict, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Washington Field Division made the announcement today.

Michel Andrew Houser, 48, pleaded guilty to two counts of an indictment filed in the Western District of Virginia charging him with possession of an unregistered machinegun and possession of an unregistered silencer. In addition, Houser pleaded guilty to a one-count Information filed in the Western District of North Carolina charging him with illegal possession of firearms by a previously convicted felon.

“When felons possess firearms, it produces violence in our neighborhoods.  As today’s plea agreement demonstrates, we will continue to prioritize these cases,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar said today. “I am grateful to our partners at the ATF and United States Attorney Murray in the Western District of North Carolina for continuing to keep out communities safe.”

“Guns do not belong in the hands of felons,” said Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. “Removing illegal firearms from our streets and prosecuting repeat gun offenders is a critical step toward tackling gun violence and building stronger and safer communities.”

“Aside from the fact that this defendant is a convicted felon and unable to lawfully possess a firearm, the nature of the weapons recovered – to include a machinegun – is of serious concern not only to law enforcement, but to all residents of Washington County,” said ATF Washington Special Agent in Charge Ashan M. Benedict. “His plea today on all charges is a testament to the excellent investigative work by both ATF and our law enforcement partners in Western Virginia and North Carolina.  Their efforts resulted in overwhelming evidence against this defendant and led to his admission of guilt.”

According to court documents, on December 4, 2019 Houser was arrested at his home in Bristol, Virginia on state charges. Following his arrest, Houser called a friend and asked him to retrieve certain firearms and ammunition from Houser’s home. At Houser’s request, the friend retrieved several firearms, and silencer, and ammunition.   

During an investigation, ATF examined a receiver from one of the firearms and determined that it met the definition of a machine gun.  Houser had not registered either the machinegun or the silencer, as required by federal statute.

On or about January 23, 2020, Houser was convicted of two felonies in Washington County, Virginia. After his July 2020 federal indictment relating to the machinegun and silencer, law enforcement located Houser in Avery County, North Carolina. At the time of his arrest, Houser was found to be in possession of three firearms and ammunition, after having been convicted of the two prior felonies.   

At sentencing, Houser faces up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for January 23, 2021.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Avery County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney Whit D. Pierce, of the Western District of Virginia, and David Thorneloe, of the Western District of North Carolina, are prosecuting the case for the United States.  

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