United States Attorney Joe Kelly announced that Joseph L. Melton, age 31, was sentenced on Friday to 30 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by two years of supervised release, after pleading guilty to a charge of possession of an unregistered silencer. There is no parole in the federal system. The Honorable John M. Gerrard, Chief United States District Court Judge, presided over the case.
Melton, who was a candidate for mayor of Holdrege, Nebraska in 2018, was also a part owner of Leadfoot LLC and handled the day-to-day operations. Leadfoot obtained a federal firearms license to manufacture and sell silencers. On August 24, 2017, industry operations inspectors with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) conducted a compliance inspection of the Leadfoot store and manufacturing facility in Holdrege. When the ATF inspectors arrived at the business, the door was locked. They contacted Melton by phone. Melton told ATF personnel that he was in Colorado. Hours later, Melton arrived at the store and allowed the inspectors into the store. Melton admitted that he had not been in Colorado, but said he panicked because he knew his records were not in order.
ATF inspectors uncovered 18 violations of federal codes and statutes related to the operation of a firearms business. Among the violations, inspectors located a silencer that was manufactured by Yankee Hill Machine Company, Inc. Melton told the inspectors that he had received that silencer as payment or trade from a customer. The Yankee Hill silencer was not registered to either Leadfoot LLC or to Melton in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record database as is required for silencers. Melton turned that silencer over to ATF agents on November 8, 2017, and he pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of that silencer on November 6, 2019.
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.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.