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MARTINSBURG – A Ranson man who faced charges for allegedly selling machine gun-conversion devices illegally to anti-government militia extremists has admitted to unlawfully possessing a firearm silencer in a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

Timothy John Watson, 30, pleaded guilty last week to possessing an unregistered firearm silencer attached to a rifle in his Ranson apartment. Police found the rifle with a silencer in his bedroom while arresting him on Nov. 2 for allegedly selling without a federal license plastic devices, known by gun enthusiasts as “drop-in auto sears,” that convert semi-automatic AR-15-style firearms into machine guns.  

However, Watson only admitted to failing to register the silencer with a national firearms registration, according to the plea agreement filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in Martinsburg. “The defendant knew that the features or characteristics of the firearm silencer made it an item that needed to be registered to him,” the agreement states.

In addition to possessing the silencer, Watson had a knife, a loaded gun, three loaded ammunition magazines with hollow-point bullets “on his person,” when he was arrested in his apartment, according to the court documents.

Police found additional weapons in his apartment—two loaded handguns on his nightstand and a loaded rifle beside his bed, the court documents state.

Watson was initially arrested for allegedly operating an online business that, starting in January 2020, sold plastic components to illegally convert AR-15-style rifles into machine guns. The plastic parts, made from a 3D printer in his apartment and sold over a website under the domain portablewallhanger.com, were advertised as “wall hooks” to hang keys, lanyards, coats and other light-weight items, FBI investigators maintain.

The two-piece wall hooks were made to be disassembled to allow one piece to change a semiautomatic rifle into an illegal machine gun, according to court records.

Prosecutors say Watson attracted over “800 clients” while selling the gun-altering devices, including people he had reason to believe were Boogaloo followers. He advertised the devices as “portable wall hangers” on Facebook pages followed by so-called Boogaloo extremists, supporters of a loosely affiliated, militia-styled ideological movement that advocates the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, according to the FBI.

Known for harboring grievances against government gun-control measures and for organizing online, the movement’s believers adopted Boogaloo as a term referring to a violent uprising or second American civil war that its members hope to incite. Boogaloo followers have attacked and killed multiple law enforcement officials across the United States, according to the FBI.

If Watson fully cooperates with an ongoing law enforcement investigation, the prosecution of three other pending charges against him will be abandoned, according to the plea agreement. Those pending charges involve unlawfully engaging in the business of manufacturing machine guns, illegally possessing and transferring machine guns and conspiring to commit offenses against the United States.

Under his plea agreement, Watson must cooperate fully and truthfully with prosecutors pursuing an ongoing, “nationwide” investigation, according to court records. That investigation that “has produced, and continues to produce, voluminous discovery material that the government continues to process,” court papers state. Prosecutors estimated they had collected about 30,000 pages of documentation.

Watson’s cooperation with prosecutors also requires him to identify and locate any property, “regardless of who owns or controls such property,” that was involved in his online business to sell the devices, the agreement states. He also must allow the IRS to turn over his tax returns for the past five years and take a polygraph lie-detector test if law enforcement officials ask him to.

Watson will be sentenced for possessing a firearm silencer after law enforcement officials obtain his records and information for their ongoing investigation. If he adheres to the terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend to U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Trumble that Watson be sentenced to serve “within the range of 57 to 71 months” in prison.

Under federal criminal law for the single offense he admitted guilt, Watson faces a potential maximum penalty of up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.

“It is understood that any information obtained from Mr. Watson in compliance with the agreement will be made known to the sentencing court,” the plea agreement states. “At final disposition, the United States will advise the Court of Mr. Watson’s forthrightness and truthfulness, or failure to be forthright and truthful, and ask the Court to give the same such weight as the Court deems appropriate.”

Police had confiscated “several electronic devices” from Watson’s apartment that were “being forensically imaged,” according to court documents.

The plea agreement requires Watson to forfeit his 3D printing equipment that police seized.

Until his sentencing, Watson is being incarcerated at the Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg. Prosecutors convinced two judges that he still poses a dangerous risk to be free in the community. The judges based their decision on his past statements threatening violence, his history of carrying weapons and the seriousness of the charges against him, according to court documents.

At the time of his arrest, Watson was angry at the IRS because he couldn’t pay his taxes with cash during the pandemic, according to court papers. “Before COVID-19 ends, the world might call me a crazed gunman,” was one recording of him that police obtained on confiscated electronic devices, a court document states. He also allegedly told his girlfriend that was going to blow up an IRS building over the dispute.

A criminal complaint filed against Watson states that 10 percent of the proceeds from his online business would be given to a “Justice for Duncan Lemp,” a fundraising site in the name of a Potomac, Maryland, man killed during a no-knock police warrant execution.

Lemp has been described by the FBI as a martyr for the Boogaloo movement. Evidence police gathered showed Watson made three payments totaling $300 to the fundraising site.

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