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Kent man sentenced for illegally selling guns later used in Chicago area murder

A Kent, Washington man was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to one year in prison and three years of supervised release for illegal transfer of a firearm to a non-state resident, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.

Benecict C. Ladera, 31, was indicted in February 2012.  Ladera pleaded guilty in March 2012.  Ladera, who is not a licensed gun dealer, knowingly sold a .40 caliber handgun to Demetry Smirnov, a Canadian citizen.  Smirnov later used the gun in the murder of 36-year-old Jitka Vesel, an Oak Brook, Illinois woman he had briefly dated a few years earlier.  At sentencing U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik said Ladera’s act of selling a gun via the internet, to someone he knew nothing about, was reckless at best.  “Guns are killing people all over our country every day…. We cannot afford to lose the people we are losing (to gun violence).”

“By purposely violating the law, the defendant put this gun in the hands of a murderer,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  “We will continue to prosecute both those that commit violent gun crimes, and those who illegally provide them the gun.”

Ladera advertised the gun for sale on a website “armslist.com” and sold the gun to Smirnov outside a Federal Way, Washington casino in early April 2011.  Ladera knew Smirnov was not a state resident when he sold the gun – in fact he accepted an extra $200 for the gun knowing Smirnov was Canadian. On the evening of April 13, 2011, Smirnov used the gun to murder Vesel in Illinois as she left a museum where she volunteered.  Smirnov confessed to police.  In July 2011, Smirnov pleaded guilty to first degree murder, accepting a prison term of life behind bars.

Ladera had no knowledge of Smirnov’s plan to stalk and murder Vesel.  However, Ladera was so disturbed by Smirnov, that he did not sell him ammunition.  In Spokane, Washington, Smirnov had a transient purchase the ammunition for him.

In asking for a 14 month sentence, prosecutors wrote to the court that “In the end, this case is about Ladera’s decision to ignore the basic requirements related to the firearm sales. The sale of firearms to out-of-state residents and foreign nationals is restricted precisely because such sales allow individuals like Smirnov to more easily avoid background and registration checks when purchasing a gun…. firearms, as this case so tragically proves, are deadly weapons and there are certain basic requirements imposed on the sale of such weapons.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and the Oak Brook Illinois Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Hobbs.  Mr. Hobbs is a Senior Deputy King County Prosecutor, specially designated to prosecute firearms cases in federal court.

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