11 Michigan men charged after the FBI investigates the sale of devices that turn pistols into machine guns

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Documents detail drug trafficking and firearm crime allegations from a Benton Harbor, Michigan investigation that led to charges against 11 men.

Five of the men were arrested Thursday (Dec. 15) morning, another five were in custody on prior charges and one is still missing, according to the police. The men range in age from 19 to 32.

Seven of the 11 men are facing charges related to the possession and transfer of firearm conversion kits, known as switches.

READ: FBI searching for 23-year-old Grand Rapids man among 11 facing drug, firearm charges

Switches turn semi-automatic pistols into machine guns

According to the complaint, switches can turn semi-automatic pistols into fully automatic machine guns.

They can be made of either metal or a polymer often used in 3D printers. A “switch” typically has three parts. It can be installed with little technical knowledge in around one minute.

When a switch is installed on a pistol and the trigger is pulled, the pistol will fire until the trigger is released or the magazine is empty. According to the complaint, a Glock pistol with a switch can fire more than 1,000 rounds per minute.

“Conversion devices are not simple firearms parts or metal accessories, as commonly advertised. When a person uses an illegally converted weapon that shoots multiple rounds by a single function, it poses an even more serious threat to public safety,” said Craig Kailimai, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Detroit Field Division.

Photographs of uninstalled and installed switches as illustrations. (Criminal Complaint)

Police search Benton Harbor home, find switch parts

On Dec. 22, 2021, police searched the home of Lyondre Burnett on Columbus Avenue in Benton Harbor, Michigan to check for evidence that Burnett had been illegally possessing firearms.

According to the document, Lyondre has a prior conviction for carrying a concealed weapon in 2020. Police found his mother, Isheria Jackson, and his brother, Torez Burnett, inside the home.

Isheria Jackson told police she kicked Lyondre Burnett out of the home because she blamed him for the home having been shot at in the last year. During the search, police found firearms, firearm parts and switch parts.

Investigators also found printed instructions describing how to attach a “switch” to a semi-automatic handgun. They also found the backplate of a Glock handgun and a Glock handgun without a backplate.

“Based on my training and experience, I understand that a pistol’s backplate must be removed to equip the pistol with a switch,” the investigator said in the report.

Packages sent from China to Benton Harbor contained switches

According to the document, federal agents seized two packages that were sent to Benton Harbor from China that contained 10 switch tools.

Investigators removed the switches from the packages and replaced them with objects that resembled switch parts. They obtained a warrant and delivered the package to the address on the label.

While they were searching the home, Brayden Bowman arrived. Bowman was on probation and was required to allow the police to search for him. Police detained him and took his phone to search for evidence. Police found evidence that he had messaged Torez Burnett about packages before.

According to the document, investigators found evidence that packages had been delivered previously to the same home on Feb. 14 and Feb. 21. The investigator believes those packages also contained switches.

“I further believe, based on the facts described above and elsewhere in this affidavit, that Torez and Bowman worked together to have the switches delivered,” the investigator said.

Torez Burnett messages with Eric Williams

The document showed Facebook messages between Torez Burnett and Eric Williams from Feb. 5, where police said they were negotiating the sale of a firearm equipped with a switch.

  • WILLIAMS: Aye fool let get that 29 for 16

  • WILLIAMS: NI wanna buy that one n put it on my .45

  • TOREZ: I’ll do 18 I got taxed on dis Bih I gave up my gen 5 23 nd sum cheese

  • WILLIAMS: Man fool I feel it I slight ain’t trynna pay that much cheese tho no cap especially since I’m really just trynna get the switchy frfr

  • WILLIAMS: That’s why I said I’ll grab that ho for 16

  • TOREZ: Igh man 17 ◎ yo A** stay willing and dealing it work every time ♨

  • WILLIAMS: Man b**ch you can do 16

  • WILLIAMS: I’m finna hit the road ina sec

  • TOREZ: So 23 In All

  • WILLIAMS: Bet

  • TOREZ: Bet Only Cause It’s U Hoe I Gotchu Nd It’s Only Gone Take Me 30 Seconds to make da Glizzy do jumping jacks

Investigators said they obtained Williams’ Facebook account and found pictures of him holding a handgun with a switch and a video of him shooting a handgun with a switch.

Eric Williams holding handgun with switch (L); Driver’s license photo (C); Firing a handgun (R) (FBI)

Police shared more examples of text exchanges and social media posts where they said Torez Burnett was selling switches.

Straw purchases in Grand Rapids

Police believe Armando Villanueva and Nicholas Hallo purchased firearms through Villanueva’s girlfriend.

That is what investigators call a “straw purchase.” It’s an illegal firearm purchase where the actual buyer of the gun, being unable to pass the required federal background check or desiring not to have his or her name associated with the transaction, uses another person who can pass the required background check to purchase the firearm for I say.

Villanueva, Hallo and the girlfriend went to the Silver Bullet FFL in Wyoming, Michigan on April 5, 2022, according to police.

Villanueva and Hallo entered the store without the girlfriend and spent time near the handgun case. They left and five minutes later the girlfriend entered the story and purchased a Glock model 33 handgun.

surveillance video from the Silver Bullet FFL showing HALLO (left) and VILLANUEVA (right) at the handgun case. (FBI)

Villanueva was arrested on July 14, 2022, after being accused of being involved in a shooting. Investigators found a video on his phone that shows him holding a Glock handgun with an affixed switch.

Police said they also found another video that showed Villanueva shooting the gun from a moving vehicle in what appeared to be a residential area. He was identified as the shooter due to his hand tattoo.

Learn more about the allegations in the criminal complaint below

The criminal complaint continues to list evidence including photos from social media and message exchanges between those accused of drug and/or weapons charges.

You can learn more about the allegations by viewing the criminal complaint below:

List of men and the charges they face

Name Resident Age Charge
Evorion Anderson Benton Harbor 20 Distribution of methamphetamine; conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine
Jayvon Anthony Benton Harbor 21 Possession or transfer of a machine gun; conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun; felon in possession of a firearm
Earl Austin IV Benton Harbor 21 Distribution of methamphetamine; conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine; possession or transfer of a machine gun; conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun
Quincy Bowman Benton Harbor 25 Conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun
Omarion Branch Benton Harbor 19 Felon in possession of a firearm
Torrez Burnett Benton Harbor 20 Conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun
Nicholas Hallo Grand Rapids 32 Felon in possession of a firearm
Demetrius Sewell Benton Harbor 22 Possession or transfer of a machine gun and conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun
Timothy Thomas Benton Harbor 25 Felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition
Armando Villanueva Grand Rapids 22 Conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun
Eric Williams Grand Rapids 23 Conspiracy to possess or transfer a machine gun

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