Great Falls, Montana - A Great Falls man who admitted breaking into an outfitting business and stealing 27 firearms was sentenced Thursday to six years and three months in prison and to three years of supervised release, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.
Carlyle Ray Wells, 25, pleaded guilty on October 8, 2020 to theft of a firearm from a federal firearms licensee.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Wells was detained.
In court documents filed in the case, the prosecution said that on November 30, 2019, Great Falls Police officers responded to a burglary alarm at North 40 Outfitters. Officers saw that a gun display case had been smashed and guns appeared to be missing.
Security footage at the business showed a small pickup truck had parked outside, just prior to the alarm. One individual exited the truck, forcefully entered the store, broke the gun case, took firearms and fled.
Officers identified the vehicle as a stolen Ford Ranger and located it near Wells' residence. Security footage showed an individual, whose clothing and physical description aligned with the North 40 burglar, walk toward Wells' residence carrying a large bag. During a search of Wells' residence, law enforcement recovered 16 firearms, 15 of which were stolen from North 40. Home surveillance video obtained through a search warrant showed that Wells entered the residence shortly after the burglary carrying a large bag with a rifle and price tag sticking out.
An audit showed that 27 firearms were stolen in the North 40 burglary. Eleven of the stolen firearms, including and AR-15 style assault rifle, remain at large.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Plaut prosecuted case, which was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, FBI, Great Falls Police Department and the Russell Country Drug Task Force.
This case is part of Project Guardian, a Department of Justice initiative launched in the fall of 2019 to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Through Project Guardian, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Montana is working to enhance coordination of its federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement partners in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes. In addition, Project Guardian supports information sharing and taking action when individuals are denied a firearm purchase by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for mental health reasons or because they are a prohibited person.