By JOSH NEWTON
Friday’s filing of second-degree burglary charges against three local men signals the beginning of the end to an 18-month-long investigation into dozens of stolen firearms.
Rachel Dallis, who represents the District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors are charging three men for their alleged part in the case: 21-year-old Tyler Brent Stacey, of Tahlequah, who is already in federal custody; 20-year-old Mohammad J. Ziyada, who was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service Friday afternoon at a Keys-area home; and 19-year-old Jacob Taylor Chuckluck, of Hulbert.
Stacey and Ziyada were indicted on federal charges earlier this year for conspiring together and with others to possess the stolen firearms, and both pleaded guilty. They are awaiting formal sentencing on the federal charges. Ziyada has been on home detention awaiting the federal sentencing.
Authorities were unable to locate Chuckluck Friday afternoon, but a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
According to Cherokee County Sheriff’s Investigator James Brown, a former police officer and member of the special forces reported his home had been burglarized in December 2011. Steven Ecker said three large safes containing more than 50 guns had been stolen, along with a large amount of various property.
Stacey had been to Ecker’s home on several occasions as a party guest, investigators said, and was considered a person of interest early in the investigation. For several months, authorities followed various leads, but were unable to make arrests.
Investigators began to piece together more of the details in June 2012 when a man in western Oklahoma purchased a pistol from Ziyada while Ziyada and Stacey were there for work.
Reports filed in the case indicate Stacey tried to get the gun back from the buyer, but the buyer contacted police because he heard the gun had been stolen in Cherokee County.
Ziyada and Stacey were ultimately arrested and charged in Beckham County with knowingly concealing stolen property. Stacey hired a lawyer and would not speak with local investigators at the time, but Ziyada gave police new leads that tied back to homes in Muskogee County.
Investigators later recovered more than two dozen of Ecker’s firearms, though a large number of them are still unaccounted for. Some have been located in other states, including New Jersey.
Several people were questioned as a result of the investigation, but have not been charged.
Two men are dodging state charges because they were juveniles at the time of the alleged home burglary.
Ziyada, Stacey and Chuckluck have blamed each other for the burglary, according to authorities.
Second-degree burglary is punishable by two to seven years in prison.
Federal prosecutors have said Ziyada and Stacey could each face up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the conspiracy charges.