Drug Enforcement Administration

Chicago

Brian M. McKnight, Special Agent in Charge

July 21, 2011

Contact: Special Agent Sharon Santiago

Phone Number: (312) 353-7875

Machine Gun Possession And Distribution Of Explosives Leads To 12½ Year Prison Term

Weapons, explosives, and indoor marijuana grow seized during investigation

MINNEAPOLIS, MN. - United States District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson sentenced Wesley Noah Banks, 50, a resident of Savage, to 151 months in federal prison on July 20, 2011. Banks was sentenced after his March 24, 2011, guilty plea of one count of illegal possession of a machine gun and one count of illegal distribution of explosive materials. Banks was charged with the above offenses on February 14, 2011.

In Banks’ plea agreement, he admitted that on January 29, 2011, he received a model AR-15 machine gun. He also admitted that on June 7, 2010, he distributed two destructive devices to Bruce Wayne Leathart, who was sentenced on November 24, 2010, to 27 months in federal prison on one count of illegal possession of a machine gun. Additionally, Banks admitted to selling Leathart four explosive devices on April 23, 2010.

Following yesterday’s sentencing, Bernard J. Zapor, Special Agent in Charge of the St. Paul Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and (ATF), said, “Building improvised destructive devices is a self-critiquing activity and one without second chances. These items often kill the bomb maker. In this case, a partnership of dedicated law enforcement officers prevented further risk to the public.”

“Weapons have become a commonly encountered and dangerous component utilized by drug traffickers to protect their illegal operations,” said Dan Moren, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Minneapolis-St. Paul office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA). “In this case, a substantial cache of weapons - machine guns, machine gun components, explosives and chemicals used to produce explosives - were seized at the same location where Mr. Banks operated a large-scale indoor marijuana grow operation. Collaborative efforts with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as our strong partnership with local law enforcement, resulted in an investigation that ceased the growing of marijuana that would have made it to our streets, while also keeping numerous weapons and explosives from potentially being used to perpetrate violence.”

A federal search warrant was executed on Banks’ residence on June 8, 2010. At the residence authorities seized additional bombs; chemicals used to manufacture explosives; 29 firearms, including seven suspected machine guns; components to manufacture more machine guns; and an indoor marijuana grow operation containing nearly 100 plants.

This case was the result of an investigation by the St. Paul Police Department, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, the DEA and the ATF. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven L. Schleicher.

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