Gun dealer who hired Bellefonte felon gets 26 months for conspiracy and tax evasion

A Lycoming County firearms dealer who hired a convicted felon from Bellefonte has been sentenced to 26 months in prison on conspiracy and tax evasion charges.

Franklin C. Lowe, 57, of Williamsport, who had pleaded guilty a year ago, was sentenced Monday by U.S. Middle District Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner, according to court reports.

The sentence also includes three years of supervised release and a directive he pay all federal income taxes he owes. He is to report to prison May 28.

Lowe, who is confined to a wheelchair due to motorcycle crash injuries and has health problems that require the use of oxygen, admitted he knew Christopher Haupt was a convicted felon, according to court reports.

But he maintained the Bellefonte man had a certificate from an unnamed Centre County district judge that gave him permission to possess rifles despite his conviction. Lowe claimed after Haupt was hired he took advantage of him.

Federal law does not permit anyone from possessing firearms who has been convicted of a crime in which the sentence was or could have been at least a year in jail.

Haupt, who last week pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge, worked for Lowe at his All-American Gun Shop near Williamsport between 2006 and 2009.

Haupt admitted he bought weapons for Lowe and was given guns to sell, including an unregistered Uzi with a silencer. Haupt, who has been cooperating with investigators, voluntarily surrendered the Uzi and silencer.

Numerous weapons were found in Haupt’s home and garage during the investigation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne P. Samuelson said.

Lowe was facing a five-year maximum jail term but sought home confinement due to his medical condition. Conner said he took that situation into consideration but also noted Lowe did not show any acceptance of responsibility or remorse.

The judge expressed shock that in February, 10 months after he pleaded guilty, Lowe applied for renewal of his federal firearms license. He claimed he needed it to get rid of his remaining weapons.

In arguing against home confinement, Samuelson noted Lowe claimed his health should keep him out of jail but he had told the judge he wanted to move to South America to teach English as a second language.

The tax evasion count stemmed from Lowe under-reporting his income in 2009 to make it appear he was eligible for a $534,419 refund. An amended return showed he owed $55,754.

An investigation determined Lowe also under-reported his income in 2007 and 2008, Samuelson alleged.