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04/01/2013

Washington state 'career criminal' sentenced to 15 years on drug and gun charges

SEATTLE — An Auburn man was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison and five years' supervised release for being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of ammunition and possession and distribution of cocaine.

Michael Paul Gradney, 35, was arrested during a 2011 multi-agency crackdown on street crime dubbed "Operation Center of Attention." The operation targeted suspects like Gradney in the Seattle-area neighborhood of White Center.

According to court records and testimony at trial, Gradney sold cocaine to individuals working with law enforcement on two separate occasions in September 2011. Then in October 2011, investigators witnessed what they believed to be drug deals orchestrated by Gradney at a gas station and various bars in White Center. During a search of Gradney's apartment that same month, law enforcement seized two handguns, ammunition, more than $25,000 in cash, cocaine and a scale with cocaine residue. Gradney has a lengthy criminal history including five prior convictions on felony drug charges. As a felon, he was prohibited by law from possessing firearms.

Gradney was convicted last December by a federal jury. U.S. District Judge James L. Robart noted at sentencing that Gradney lied when he testified during the trial and had "flagrant disregard for the law."

Operation Center of Attention resulted in 50 arrests and the seizure of nearly 70 guns and more than 60 pounds of illicit drugs.

The enforcement effort was coordinated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the King County Sheriff's Office, the Seattle Police Department, the King County Metro Transit Police, the Washington State Department of Corrections, the Washington State Liquor Control Board and the Eastside Narcotics Task Force. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington.