KC fire captain charged with illegally selling guns used in crimes including murder

Prosecutors say James Samuels sold this AR-15 .223-caliber rifle and ammunition to a confidential informant he believed was a convicted felon.
Prosecutors say James Samuels sold this AR-15 .223-caliber rifle and ammunition to a confidential informant he believed was a convicted felon. U.S. Attorney's Office

A Kansas City Fire Department captain has been charged with illegally selling numerous firearms to people he allegedly knew were felons.

James Samuels, 52, is charged in U.S. District Court in Kansas City with sale of a firearm and ammunition to a prohibited person and knowingly transferring a firearm for use in a crime of violence.

In several cases, Samuels allegedly sold guns to people who told him they were going to use them to shoot people, according to the allegations. In one transaction, Samuels allegedly gave the person advice on how to start a fire to get rid of evidence at a murder scene.

Federal prosecutors say Samuels bought 77 firearms over the last several years and funneled some of them to a co-conspirator who then reported them stolen.

“Those who supply dangerous firearms to violent criminals are as much a threat to the safety of our community as the criminals themselves,” Timothy Garrison, U.S. attorney for Western Missouri, said in a written statement. “We will aggressively prosecute not only those who illegally possess firearms, but also the suppliers whose criminal conduct enables them to arm themselves with these weapons.”

The charges were filed under seal Monday and were made public Friday after Samuels was arrested and appeared in court.

The charges stem from the Sept. 5 sale of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to person working as a confidential informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to court documents. But the affidavit filed in support of the charges alleges that Samuels had been involved in illegally dealing firearms since 2014.

Federal prosecutors said that Samuels purchased mostly handguns over the last several years and that six of those weapons had been used in other crimes.

One of those crimes was the July 2016 homicide of Alvino Crawford. A .380-caliber handgun bought by Samuels was used in the crime, according to prosecutors.

“At the center of ATF’s mission of reducing firearms-related violence is investigating and bringing to justice those supplying firearms to the violent, criminal elements of our communities,” said George Lauder, special agent in charge of the ATF office in Kansas City. “Stopping this flow of firearms will continue to be our focus as we work to make our neighborhoods safer places to live.”

The ATF investigation began in January after an unnamed co-conspirator had reported multiple times since 2014 that guns had been stolen from him. Many of those guns were initially purchased by Samuels, according to the allegations, including one that was later linked to Crawford’s homicide.

ATF investigators began contacting licensed dealers where Samuels had purchased guns.

One told the investigators that Samuels had purchased many handguns from his business, and he told the ATF that he knew Samuels was acting as a firearms dealer without a license.

“The employee stated that he told Samuels he was playing with fire and was going to get burned,” according to the affidavit.

Investigators contacted a number of other dealers who had transacted business with Samuels.

Kansas City Fire Department officials said Samuels had worked for the department for 20-plus years, most recently as a captain, but they declined further comment.

Samuels is being held in custody pending an Oct. 11 court appearance. Prosecutors are seeking to have him detained without bond while the case is pending.