Wyoming Pawn Shops Bust Alleged $30,000 Illegal Gun Sale Scheme

Two Rock Springs pawn shops exposed a local man’s alleged scheme to circumvent gun registration law and fill $30,000 in gun orders made with fraudulent credit cards.

Clair McFarland

May 01, 20243 min read

Preston Ronald Lewis
Preston Ronald Lewis (Sweetwater County Detention Center)

A Rock Springs man has reportedly admitted to running an online straw buyers' scheme involving more than a dozen guns and over $29,000 in purchases after the pawn shops he used as shipping hubs reported him to police. 

Preston Ronald Lewis, who turns 22 this year, now faces nine felony theft charges, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. His case rose Tuesday to the felony-level Sweetwater County District Court. 

For weeks in March and April, Lewis would order guns from Iowa-based online gun shop Battle Hawk Armory and finalize his purchases through two Rock Springs pawn shops that are licensed to sell guns. Then he'd ship the guns to other people, Lewis allegedly told police after his April 19 arrest. 

Lewis told Rock Springs Police Detective Anthony Anson that he'd gotten involved with an online group that trafficked firearms and firearm parts, according to an evidentiary affidavit filed in Rock Springs Circuit Court. 

The Scheme

Lewis reportedly told Anson that he and a man named Hayden Espinosa, who possibly ran or started the group via Discord and Telegram applications, hatched a plan to run guns through Rock Springs. 

Lewis would have the guns shipped to the Rock Springs pawn shops, where he'd submit his background checks and finish each purchase, then he'd ship them to people in Texas, Colorado and other states using shipping labels Espinosa supplied, the document says. 

At some point Lewis found out that Espinosa was using a fake or stolen credit card to buy the guns, but by then he was already comfortable with the scheme since he hadn't gotten caught, the affidavit alleges. 

Police executed a search warrant on Lewis' home on College Court, and allegedly found five firearms (two pistols and three rifles) collected from one pawn shop and eight more (five pistols, two rifles, one shotgun) collected from the other pawn shop.

Both pawn shops had reported to police that after Lewis collected the guns from them, Battle Hawk Armory contacted them and said the money hadn't gone through due to suspected fraudulent activity. 

The owner of Battle Hawk also was in touch with local police and reportedly provided receipts and ledgers of the payment revocation statements that showed six purchases with six different Visa cards, for several thousand dollars' worth of guns. 

The cards had different shipping addresses, the affidavit says. 

The owner of Battle Hawk told police he'd been trying to speak to Lewis on the phone to get him to return those firearms to the pawn shops, but Lewis never got back to him. 

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

Share this article



Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter