A Northeast Philadelphia man was arrested last night for allegedly buying four guns for a 16-year-old reputed drug dealer in exchange for heroin, District Attorney Seth Williams announced today. Investigators said the teen then used one of those guns to shoot another man in Oxford Circle two months ago.
"The fact that a grown man bought four different guns for a 16-year-old is unfathomable," Williams said. "That coupled with the harsh reality that the teen then used one of those guns to shoot another young man only cements the need for tougher penalties for straw purchasers in Pennsylvania."
Prosecutors said 32-year-old Luke Dercole, of the 6400 block of Lawndale Avenue, bought four different guns for 16-year-old Michael Burak between Oct. 17 and Oct. 23, 2012. Burak allegedly used one of those guns to shoot 20-year-old Jonathan Espinosa on Oct. 28 inside an Oxford Circle home. He has been charged with attempted murder in connection with that case.
"Buying multiple guns for a minor, who then shoots another teen, is not only unacceptable – it is a tragedy," Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said. "This is an example of enforcing sensible laws against illegal gun trafficking."
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Piecing facts together
Authorities said the investigation was launched after narcotics agents searching a Frankford Avenue home last month found a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol. Police were able to trace that gun back to Dercole and discovered it was one of four firearms he had purchased in October. Prosecutors said none of those guns were reported stolen or missing.
Dercole allegedly admitted in an interview with police that he bought the guns for 16-year-old reputed drug dealer Michael Burak in exchange for packets of heroin. He allegedly made multiple purchases because Burak wasn't happy with the type of guns Dercole bought.
Dercole was arraigned overnight and is charged with illegal transfer, corruption of a minor, conspiracy, making false statements to authorities, tampering with public records and numerous firearm offenses. He is currently being held on $500,000 bail and is next due in court on March 4.
Though the recently-passed "Brad Fox Law" now allows state prosecutors to pursue tougher sentences for those accused of multiple straw purchases, authorities said the statute doesn't apply in this case because Dercole allegedly bought the guns before December of 2012.
Prosecutors allege that Dercole's illegal purchases include:
>> A Ruger LCP .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol on Oct. 17.
>> A .22 caliber revolver on Oct. 19, which he allegedly sold back to the gun store the next day.
>> A .380 caliber Taurus semi-automatic pistol on Oct. 20. He exchanged that weapon for a different gun three days later.
>> A 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistol on Oct. 23. Burak allegedly used that gun to shoot Espinoza five days later.