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Contraband
03/24/2010

Cook County officer arrested for firearms violation

CHICAGO - A Cook County correctional officer, who allegedly purchased an Uzi assault rifle and other firearms to sell to another individual, was arrested Tuesday on criminal charges of violating federal firearms laws. The arrest was made by special agents with the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Miguel "Mike" Echevarria, 44, of Chicago, was arrested outside his residence on March 22. Echevarria was charged in a criminal complaint that was filed last week in the Northern District of Illinois and unsealed Tuesday. The complaint charges Echevarria with one count of making a false statement on a federal firearms purchase application, a felony offense.

According to the complaint, the investigation began in March 2008 when an individual, identified only as a cooperating witness, indicated he had illegally purchased a handgun from Echevarria, a Cook County correctional officer. In January 2009, the cooperating witness accompanied Echevarria to a suburban gun store where Echevarria purchased an AR-15 rifle for the cooperating witness.

After completing the "straw purchase" of the rifle, the cooperating witness told Echevarria that he also wanted to purchase an Uzi assault rifle equipped with a silencer. Two weeks later, the cooperating witness again accompanied Echevarria to a suburban gun store where Echevarria purchased an Uzi assault rifle equipped with a laser sight. According to the complaint, Echevarria was paid $3,000 for the assault rifle and an additional $300 for making the purchase.

Subsequent investigation revealed that Echevarria identified himself on federal forms as the actual buyer of the weapon, when in fact he allegedly purchased the weapon for the cooperating witness.

"The public benefits when federal law enforcement agencies work together to stem the illegal flow of guns into our communities," stated Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Chicago. "ICE is committed to ensuring that firearms don't end up in the wrong hands where they can threaten public safety."

If convicted of the charges, Echevarria faces up to five years in prison.

The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt and that all defendants in a criminal case are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.