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In effort to fight gun crimes, federal authorities going after suspected straw buyers

Updated: October 01, 2019 10:41 PM

Two Minnesotans have been charged with federal crimes for their alleged role in buying a gun on behalf of someone who legally wasn't allowed to do it on their own.

Thirty-eight-year-old Sequana Cigolo was charged with lying on a federal form and providing a gun to a felon. Jason Winston was charged with aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm by a felon. 

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According to the criminal complaint, Cigolo confessed she had been recruited by Winston to go into a Twin Cities gun shop and purchase a firearm, claiming it was for her. She later admitted she had purchased it for Winston. Winston is a convicted felon and is prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm. 

Although Cigolo and Winston were not accused of ever pulling the trigger during a crime, that did not stop the U.S. Attorney's Office from filing criminal charges against them. The charges came after forensic tests revealed the pistol was the same one used in a handful of violent incidents that occurred hundreds of miles apart from July to September. 

One of those incidents includes the shooting that injured Cigolo's own brother at their Northeast Minneapolis home on July 28. 

Court records show Jason Winston admitted he paid Cigolo for the gun and later handed off the pistol to someone else, who fled to Chicago. On Sept. 18, a random woman who was walking to lunch on a Chicago sidewalk was shot from behind and paralyzed.

Surveillance footage helped police identify the suspect as Michael Blackman. When officers tried to arrest Blackman on Sept. 21, there was a standoff and shootout. Charges filed in Illinois claim Blackman nearly killed an officer. 

Chicago police recovered a gun at the scene, which was traced back to Cigolo and Winston. 

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tracks and investigates gun trafficking at the federal level. 
When asked how the firearm purchased by Cigolo ended up in Chicago, ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charged said the agency did not know.

"It's black market," he said. "It passed from hands to hands and crimes were committed along the way."

In the past year, the ATF said a total of 3,909 firearms used in crimes in Minnesota have been seized. However, it's not clear how many of those weapons were purchased by straw buyers. 

"That's what the ATF is going after," Ortiz said. "People out there lying on federal forms to put a firearm in the hands of criminals."

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Beth McDonough

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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