WHEELING - Michael Frank's five-year probation sentence on illegal weapons dealing charges will stand, as U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. has decided not to appeal a federal judge's ruling.
Frank, a 26-year-old Wheeling resident, pleaded guilty in January 2013 to charges of conspiracy to export firearms and money laundering, admitting he sold about two dozen firearms to buyers in Canada and Israel over a period of about six months in 2012. He was arrested after a two-month investigation that began when Interpol intercepted a package in Jerusalem containing a pistol and ammunition that authorities traced back to Frank.
His crimes could have resulted in a 25-year prison term, but federal prosecutors pushed for a 5-year sentence in exchange for the guilty plea. But U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey, weighing testimony regarding Frank's military service in Iraq and subsequent struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, opted to sentence him to five years of probation instead, with conditions including a requirement he continues to live with his parents until the court decides he may move elsewhere.
In December, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Stein and Stephen Vogrin filed a notice of appeal with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., asking the court to decide whether Bailey abused his discretion in departing from sentencing guidelines for the crimes of which Frank was convicted.
The court dismissed the matter after Verrilli informed U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld II's office April 8 that he would not authorize them to pursue the appeal. As solicitor general, Verrilli's duties include reviewing lower court cases which are decided against the government and deciding whether to appeal, in addition to representing the government in cases before the Supreme Court.
According to court documents, Frank sent multiple packages bearing various fake return addresses to overseas locales, including London and Calgary. Customs inspections of packages traced back to Frank found Tasers disguised as cell phones and pistols with the serial numbers obliterated.
Prosecutors and defense witnesses portrayed Frank in very different lights during his November sentencing hearing in Wheeling.
Stein called Frank a "dangerous man," and a Department of Homeland Security agent testified that certain items found during a search of the Frank home on Hamilton Avenue - including loaded weapons, a bulletproof vest and helmet and a set of "flex cuffs" - led authorities to believe he was preparing for a confrontation with police. The agent also testified that Frank admitted he was planning to manufacture methamphetamine in the home.
But Frank's social worker told the court he attended counseling sessions faithfully, was respectful and supportive of his fellow group members and, in her opinion, posed no threat to society.
The sentencing order also included the forfeiture of three Glock pistols and $2,000. Court documents indicate Frank paid the judgment Dec. 6 via money order.