CHARLESTON, W.Va. – United States Attorney Mike Stuart recognized Agent Cody McClung with the Wood County Sheriff’s Department and Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Pat Lefebure today for their outstanding work in partnership with his office.
McClung and Lefebure were presented with the U.S. Attorney’s Award for Excellence in Pursuit of Justice for their roles in the case of United States v. Benjamin Lee Parsons. The work of both McClung and Lefebure were critical to the case’s successful conclusion. Law enforcement officers with the Parkersburg Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were also involved in the investigation of Parsons.
“It was truly a pleasure for me to honor the outstanding work of Agent McClung and Prosecutor Lefebure today. It is through strong partnerships with law enforcement and state prosecutors that we achieve our greatest, most meaningful successes,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “The investigation and prosecution of the Parsons case was important for public safety as well as the safety of our police officers. As U.S. Attorney, one of my greatest honors is to work alongside the men and women of law enforcement. I thank them for what they do each day to keep us safe and for their unwavering commitment to the pursuit of justice.”
The investigation of Benjamin Lee Parsons, 31, of Mineral Wells, began in 2016 for making threats against police and others and claiming to have interest in terrorist organizations. In December 2015, Parsons had worn a mask to a church service in Mineral Wells. In January 2017, Parsons told several witnesses at a church in Parkersburg that he was armed, that he had recently thought about shooting police, that he had been watching violent terrorist videos, and that he had communicated with foreign terrorists and discussed several “soft targets” in Wood County. The Wood County Sheriff’s Department responded and seized numerous firearms from his residence. Agent Cody McClung was the lead investigator for the Sheriff’s Department and he worked closely with members of the Parkersburg Police Department, and ATF and FBI special agents throughout the investigation. Due to the efforts of Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure, Parsons was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in February 2017. That adjudication prohibited Parsons from possessing firearms under both state and federal law.
In October 2018, investigators learned that Parsons had acquired additional firearms including a high-capacity semiautomatic FNH model M249S 5.56 caliber assault rifle. The rifle is the semiautomatic civilian version of the Squad Assault Weapon (SAW) used by the United States military. Investigators further learned that Parsons had obtained the weapon from another individual who told investigators that he had purchased it for Parsons from a licensed firearms dealer in Marietta, Ohio. Police arrested Parsons on October 31, 2018 on a federal charge of conspiracy to provide false information to a federally licensed firearms dealer during the acquisition of a firearm. On November 2, 2018, investigators executed a search warrant at a wooded area in Mineral Wells where Parsons had been living. When investigators executed the search warrant, they recovered the FNH assault rifle and a Molot 5.45x39mm rifle from a locked case Parsons kept at his campsite on the property. The FNH was loaded with approximately 190 rounds of belted ammunition in a drum magazine. Investigators also located and seized 12 magazines for the Molot loaded with 164 rounds of ammunition, 32 additional unloaded magazines, and approximately 640 rounds of 9mm and other rifle ammunition.
As a result of this investigation, in May 2019, Parsons pled guilty in federal court to possessing the SAW and Molot 5.45×39 rifle after being committed to a mental institution. Parsons was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison for his crime. Upon release from prison, Parsons will serve three years of federal supervised release, during which he will receive mental health treatment.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.