BALTIMORE, MD—An officer with the Baltimore County Police Department has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.
William R. Johnson Jr., 33, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty this week to a federal charge of honest services wire fraud, for seeking and accepting bribes and kickbacks, totaling at least $16,804, to falsely certify that applicants for Maryland handgun qualifying licenses (HQL) and wear and carry permits (CCW) had completed the required training.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Baltimore Field Office; and Interim Chief Dennis J. Delp of the Baltimore County Police Department (“BCPD”).
“We’re taking a hardline on any and all firearms-related violations,” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron. “These requirements are in place for good reasons and we’re trusting law enforcement officials to ensure compliance.”
As detailed in court documents, Johnson joined the Baltimore County Police Department in August 2008, and obtained a qualified handgun instructor certificate (QHIC) from the Maryland State Police on April 29, 2019. In order to purchase, rent, or receive a handgun in Maryland, residents must have a handgun qualification license (HQL), which requires, among other things, that an applicant complete four hours of instruction by a qualified handgun instructor, including classroom training, a firearms orientation, and a “live fire” exercise in which the applicant safely shoots the weapon. Similarly, to obtain a license to wear and carry a firearm (referred to as a wear and carry permit or “CCW”) residents must undergo a minimum of 16 hours of instruction for an initial CCW application, and a minimum of eight hours of instruction for a renewal CCW application which is administered by a qualified handgun instructor. Part of the training course for obtaining a CCW is a firearms qualification exercise in which the applicant must shoot a specific course, scoring at least 70 percent accuracy, to demonstrate their proficiency and use of the firearm.
According to his guilty plea, from May 2019 through September 2021, Johnson solicited and accepted bribes and kickbacks, paid through interstate electronic funds transfer services like Venmo, CashApp and Zelle, from applicants seeking HQLs and CCWs in exchange for Johnson falsely certifying to the Maryland State Police that the applicant had completed the training required by law. Johnson communicated with applicants and arranged the payments using a messaging application. Johnson charged approximately $100 for an HQL certification and between $150 and $200 for a CCW certification. In conversations with the applicants, Johnson made clear that once they paid the money, Johnson would send them the required documentation and they did not need to attend the required classes. After receiving payment from the applicants, Johnson sent the applicants a “Certified Qualification Score Sheet” falsely certifying that the applicant completed the required training. The applicants then submitted those falsified forms as part of their application. Based on the falsified documentation provided by Johnson and submitted by the applicants, the applicants received an HQL and/or CCW from MSP.
Johnson further admitted that in January 2021, he provided information to A.F. regarding a BCPD investigation into A.F. during a text message conversation about Johnson signing off on A.F.’s required HQL training. The information Johnson provided included details which led A.F. to determine the probable identity of the individual who provided the confidential information, the fact that the individual stopped providing information to the Narcotics Unit, and that the Narcotics Unit closed out the investigation.
Johnson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for honest services wire fraud. As part of his plea agreement, Johnson will be required to pay a money judgment of at least $16,804, representing the proceeds he obtained from the scheme.
U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett has scheduled sentencing for Johnson on July 13, 2023.
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