Baltimore County Police Officer Facing Federal Indictment for Allegedly Seeking and Accepting Bribes in Exchange for Falsely Certifying the Completion of Firearms Training Required to Obtain a Handgun | USAO-MD

Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury today returned an indictment charging William R. Johnson, Jr., age 32, of Baltimore, Maryland, for a federal charge of honest services wire fraud, for allegedly seeking and accepting bribes and kickback to falsely certify that applicants for Maryland handgun qualifying licenses (HQL) and wear and carry permits (CCW) had completed the required training.  Johnson is expected to have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore tomorrow, October 27, 2021 at 3:45 p.m.

The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department.

Johnson, who joined the Baltimore County Police Department in August 2008, became a narcotics detective on February 18, 2014.  Johnson obtained a qualified handgun instructor certificate (QHIC) from the Maryland State Police on April 29, 2019.  In order to purchase, rent, or receive a handgun in Maryland, residents must have a handgun qualification license (HQL).  To obtain an HQL, the applicant must be at least 21 years old and complete four hours of instruction by a qualified handgun instructor, including classroom training, a firearms orientation, and a “live fire” exercise in which the applicant safely shoots the weapon. Similarly, to obtain a license to wear and carry a firearm (referred to as a wear and carry permit or “CCW”) residents must have completed the Maryland State Police (MSP) firearms training course within two years of submitting a new or renewal application.  In addition, the applicant must undergo a minimum of 16 hours of instruction for an initial CCW application, and a minimum of eight hours of instruction for a renewal CCW application which is administered by a qualified handgun instructor.  Part of the training course for obtaining a CCW is a firearms qualification exercise in which the applicant must shoot a specific course, scoring at least 70 percent accuracy, to demonstrate their proficiency and use of the firearm.

According to the six-count indictment, from May 2019 through September 2021, Johnson solicited and accepted bribes and kickbacks, paid through interstate electronic funds transfer services like Venmo, CashApp and Zelle, from applicants seeking HQLs and CCWs in exchange for Johnson falsely certifying to the Maryland State Police that the applicant had completed the training required by law. 

As detailed in the indictment, Johnson communicated with applicants and arranged the payments using a messaging application.  Johnson allegedly charged approximately $100 for an HQL certification and between $150 and $200 for a CCW certification.  In conversations with the applicants, Johnson allegedly made clear that once they paid the money, Johnson would send them the required documentation and they did not need to attend the required classes.  The indictment alleges that, after receiving payment from the applicants, Johnson sent the applicants a “Certified Qualification Score Sheet” falsely certifying that the applicant completed the required training.  The indictment alleges that the applicants then submitted those falsified forms as part of their application.  Based on the falsified documentation provided by Johnson and submitted by the applicants, the applicants received an HQL or CCW from MSP.  The indictment alleges that Johnson received six payments from five individuals seeking to obtain an HQL, a CCW, or both an HQL and CCW.

According to the indictment, since April 29, 2019, Johnson has certified at least 100 applicants for handgun qualification licenses and at least 45 for wear and carry permits.

If convicted, Johnson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each of six-counts of honest services wire fraud.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

An indictment is not a finding of guilt.  An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings. 

United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI and the Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation and thanked Homeland Security Investigations Baltimore, the Maryland State Police, and the Food and Drug Administration – Office of Investigations for their assistance.  Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Wise and Christine Goo, who are prosecuting the case.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.

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