A former Burke County firearms dealer pleaded guilty Monday to illegally selling weapons to a convicted felon and to out-of-state residents.
William Debow, 52, who spent the past couple of weeks in jail for violating the conditions of his bond, will be allowed to self-report to prison to begin his 40-month sentence.
Senior Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. accepted a plea negotiation that set Debow’s punishment with the prison term, a $10,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
Debow’s bond was revoked this month after Bowen learned Debow kept the Ponderosa Trading Co. open and bragged on Facebook that he was still open for business.
On Monday, Debow apologized to the court. He worked so hard to build the business that he couldn’t accept that he had lost it, Debow said.
Agent Jason Stricklin, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified Monday that a search warrant executed at the home of a convicted felon in October led to 26 weapons. The felon told agents that he had purchased most of the guns from Debow. To get around the law, Debow suggested that the felon should bring his mother in to fill out the required forms of ownership, Stricklin testified.
When they executed a search warrant at the Ponderosa Trading Co., agents found a stack of federal forms showing Debow sold weapons to South Carolina residents, Stricklin said.
Defense attorney Pete Theodocion told the judge that Debow executed poor judgment in selling to South Carolina residents but he did use the license number of a South Carolina firearms dealer to perform background checks on the purchasers. Everyone was legally able to buy a weapon.
Debow has sold his inventory of about 4,000 weapons, he said.
He has already paid a $35,000 civil penalty to the ATF. As a convicted felon, he will never be allowed to own a weapon again.