MOULTRIE -- A federal jury found one of two Moultrie store owners guilty Thursday of aiding and abetting falsification of federal firearms records. Another store owner was found not guilty of the charges.

After seven hours of deliberation, Charles Motes III, 43, also known as Charlie Motes, of 726 Second St. S.W., was convicted on two counts out of nine counts associated with the illegal purchase of firearms.

Motes is the former owner of a Northwest Moultrie convenience store with no prior criminal record. However, since his arrest last summer, Colquitt County jail records indicate he's had run-ins with the law for drinking and driving.

Co-defendant Marvin H. King, 46, of Hartsfield, owner of King's Jewelry Midtown Pawnbrokers, was acquitted of all charges. King has no criminal record either.

Motes and King were arrested after a 25-month investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Moultrie Police Department (MPD) and were indicted on charges of conspiracy and making false statements on federal firearms records.

In May 2002, the MPD received information that Motes had individuals with clean criminal histories purchasing guns in Moultrie. Over the past two years, officials said, 22 firearms, mostly Jennings 9 mm semi-automatic pistols, were purchased in this manner at three Moultrie establishments: King's pawn shop, American Pawn and Moultrie Pawn. The owners of the other stores were not charged, Chief Investigator Sgt. Roger Lindsay has said.

A third defendant, Thomas Frazier, also known as "Butter," of New York, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy at the end of August, a spokesman from the Office of the Attorney General of Georgia.

Investigators said Frazier, who had spent a short time in Moultrie during the time of the offenses, accompanied the purchasers when they legally bought the weapons. Frazier testified at trial, said MPD Sgt. Roger Miller.

King's defense attorney Rick Collum, of Moultrie, said Frazier had two prior convictions of crack cocaine distribution and as a convicted felon could not legally purchase firearms.

One of the guns in the case had been picked up in a crack cocaine distribution bust in New York City. Another was found in the possession of a convicted felon, who has since been arrested and convicted on other charges, investigators had said.

Frazier was looking at a maximum of 45 years in federal prison. Each of the nine counts against Frazier, Motes and King carried a penalty of five years.

Collum said the case centered around the word of witnesses who testified they bought guns for felons, and his investigation found that one witness was a crack addict and has traded sex for drugs. Collum said investigators were unaware of those details that ultimately undermined their case.

"She and Butter had a sexual relationship. ... He went with her on a number of occasions and he gave her money outside of the store -- outside of Marvin's store. Debra went in and filled out the ATF forms and bought guns. Marvin sold her the guns legally," the attorney said, adding King was unaware this person was not the actual buyer.

Another witness in the case knew this woman from school and had met Frazier through her, Collum said.

The ATF agent investigating the case was one of Collum's students at the federal law enforcement training center.

"I told him, 'You've been trained better than this.' The investigation was lacking," Collum said.

Motes and Frazier will be sentenced at a later date before U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson.



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