By JOSH NEWTON
Two men are facing federal conspiracy charges after a year-long investigation into 50-plus firearms that were stolen from a Cherokee County man.
Tyler Brent Stacey, 20, and Mohammad “Moe” Ziyada, 21, both of Tahlequah, were indicted in federal court last month on charges of conspiring together and with other persons, both known and unknown, to possess stolen firearms.
Stacey and Ziyada were both arrested Jan. 23 in Cherokee County, and Stacey on Thursday pleaded guilty to the federal charges. Investigators have said Ziyada is also expected to enter a plea agreement.
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Investigator James Brown said a former police officer and member of the special forces reported a home burglary in December 2011. The man was gone at the time of the burglary, and a family member made the initial report for him.
Deputies went to the man’s home in Wildcat Point and learned three large safes with more than 50 firearms had been stolen, along with a large amount of other property.
Brown said Stacey had been to the home several times as a party guest, and was interviewed as a person of interest days after the home burglary.
Investigators said the method used to break into the local home was similar to a style Stacey used in previous burglaries, where the front door would be kicked in and firearms would be taken. Stacey was charged with multiple burglary counts in 2009 and 2010, court records show.
But authorities didn’t have enough information to arrest Stacey when he was interviewed in 2011. For several months after, Brown said, investigators followed leads but had little information on the stolen guns.
In June 2012, a man in western Oklahoma bought a pistol from Ziyada while Ziyada and Stacey were in that part of the state working. Stacey allegedly tried to get the gun back from the man later, but the buyer contacted investigators after he heard it might have been stolen in Cherokee County.
Ziyada and Stacey were arrested and charged with knowingly concealing stolen property in Beckham County and held on $100,000 bonds. Brown said authorities, including the sheriff’s office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, went to western Oklahoma to talk with the two men. Stacey hired a lawyer and wouldn’t speak with investigators, but Ziyada spoke about the case.
Authorities later received two search warrants and served them at homes in Muskogee County. None of the stolen firearms were recovered at the homes, but investigators said they did receive useful information about the case.
Authorities were contacted about a week later by someone who had more than two dozen of the stolen firearms.
Brown said those weapons were eventually turned over to investigators.
And last month, authorities in Dover, N.J., arrested a man who had one of the stolen guns in his possession. Brown said police in that state contacted local investigators after they realized the gun had been reported stolen.
Numerous firearms are still unaccounted for, Brown said, but the investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected.
The federal indictment against Stacey alleges he not only conspired with Ziyada and others to possess the stolen firearms, but also participated in the home burglary when the firearms – including two fully automatic weapons and one short-barreled rifle – were taken. The guns were later concealed, stored, bartered, sold or disposed of, prosecutors allege.
Magistrate Judge Kimberly E. West accepted Stacey’s guilty plea in Muskogee federal court Thursday and ordered a presentence report, with formal sentencing to follow its completion.
Stacey could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.