Edmonton man pleads guilty in 'straw purchasing' weapons case

For the first time in Alberta, a man has pleaded guilty to possession of weapons for the purpose of trafficking, in a practice known as straw purchasing, when a person legally obtains weapons intended for the black market.

First weapons-trafficking case of its type in Alberta, Crown prosecutor tells court

Officers recovered rifles, handguns, silencers and ammunition in the bust that led to Justin Shipowich's arrest. (ALERT )

For the first time in Alberta, a man has pleaded guilty in a case of "straw purchasing" — using a firearms licence to obtain weapons intended for the black market.

Justin Shipowich pleaded guilty Wednesday in Edmonton's Court of Queen's Bench to one count of possession for purpose of weapons trafficking.

Crown prosecutor Adam Garrett told court the case was the first in Alberta of the illegal practice known as straw purchasing.

An agreed statement of facts filed in court states that Shipowich, who had a restricted firearm licence, purchased 40 restricted firearms between June and September 2016.

The firearms included 39 handguns and one semi-automatic rifle.

An expert from the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team concluded that "the firearms could only have been possessed for the purposes of trafficking," according to the agreed statement of facts. 

Five weapons recovered

Shipowich falsely reported the weapons stolen to Edmonton police on Sept. 12, 2016, according to court documents.  

Only five of the guns were recovered.

One was found at Shipowich's residence. The other four — including a Glock pistol recovered in Toronto — were seized in separate investigations.

Some of the guns had been altered. In some cases the serial number had been removed. 

Shipowich was charged with weapons trafficking-related offences on Sept. 23, 2016, after an investigation by the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams. Four other men were also charged at the time. 

Seeking 8-year prison term

Garrett, the prosecutor, argued that the large number of guns purchased, and the fact that they have mostly not been recovered, were aggravating factors.

Defence lawyer Stacey Purser said her client was a meth addict facing bankruptcy at the time of his offences. 

Shipowich also pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of fraud and drug trafficking. Those offences occurred while the accused was out on a recognizance for the weapons trafficking charges. 

In a joint submission, the prosecution and defence are asking for an eight-year prison term.

Sentencing is expected Thursday.