BRATTLEBORO — A Massachusetts man has been charged in federal court after trying to buy a firearm in Vermont.
According to court documents, Eric LaFrance, 34, of Westfield, Mass., was arrested in Brattleboro trying to purchase a firearm from a man he thought was a registered firearms dealer. However, unknown to LaFrance, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives had received a tip from a Vermont firearms licensee that a man from Holyoke, Mass., was attempting to make a purchase via a social media website of two low-cost handguns.
The licensee advised LaFrance that he could not sell to a non-Vermont resident, state court documents. LaFrance then changed his social media website to list his location as Stratton, Vt. The licensee declined to complete the transaction and then contacted the ATF.
An undercover agent with the ATF then contacted LaFrance via the same social media website, telling LaFrance he had a GLOCK Model 22 .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol for sale.
"LaFrance stated he wished to purchase that firearm and through several exchanges of messages ... advised he would trade an older revolver, marijuana, U.S. currency or some combination of the three in exchange for the firearm ..." state the documents. The two arranged to meet in Brattleboro in the 500 block of Canal Street.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont, LaFrance told the undercover agent that although he possessed a .22 caliber pistol, he needed to upgrade his firearm after "a recent violent confrontation."
Shortly after paying the agent for the firearm, he was arrested.
Because LaFrance has a felony record, he was charged Tuesday with being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was released with conditions on Thursday. If convicted, LaFrance faces a maximum of 10 years of imprisonment.
This case is part of Project Guardian, a Department of Justice initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws.
In April 2020, the ATF Burlington Field Office began an investigation targeting the unlawful trafficking of firearms between Vermont and western Massachusetts, state the court documents.
"ATF received information from several sources that individuals involved in drug distribution from western Massachusetts were frequently obtaining firearms in Vermont in exchange for drugs," the documents state. "These Vermont-sourced firearms are then often recovered during investigations of violent incidents."
The court documents also note that LaFrance has a "La Familia" tattoo on his hand. La Familia reportedly is a violent street gang that has several members active in the Holyoke area.
Bob Audette can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.