2 plead guilty to federal gun crimes

CHARLESTON – Two area residents pleaded guilty, last week, to federal gun charges, according to United States Attorney Carol Casto. Justin Keith Branham, 34, of Alum Creek, entered his guilty plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Alisha Marie Esque, 27, of Julian, entered her guilty plea to aiding and abetting the theft of firearms from a federal firearms licensee. The pleas came Thursday, January 4, 2018.

Branham and Esque are two of four defendants indicted in August 2017 and charged with stealing guns from a Boone County firearms dealer. Branham admitted that in November 2016, he possessed a rifle that he had stolen from the firearms dealer. Branham is prohibited from possessing any firearms under federal law because of a 2013 felony conviction in Kanawha County Circuit Court for burglary by breaking and entering. Esque admitted that in November 2016, she served as a lookout for Branham while he broke into the store to steal guns. 

Branham and Esque each face up to 10 years in federal prison when they are sentenced on March 21, 2018.

The Boone County Sheriff’s Office, the West Virginia State Police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney James Matthew Davis is handling the prosecution. The plea hearing was held before United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr.

This case is being prosecuted as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods. Project Safe Neighborhoods is a nationwide commitment to reduce gun crime in the United States by networking existing local programs targeting gun crime.