Cou­ple draws jail in straw pur­chase for Pottstown shooter

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Mont­coCourtNews on Twit­ter

Con­cerned about straw pur­chases that al­low guns to get into the hands of “bad peo­ple,” a judge sent a cou­ple to jail for their roles in the il­le­gal trans­fer of a hand­gun to a North Coven­try man who was in­volved in sev­eral Pottstown shoot­ings.

Rashaun Cham­bers, 22, of the 100 block of Western Av­enue, Mor­ris­town, N.J., was sen­tenced in Mont­gomery County Court on Thurs­day to 14 ½ to 35 months in jail and two years’ pro­ba­tion af­ter he pleaded guilty to charges of crim­i­nal use of a com­mu­ni­ca­tion fa­cil­ity, firearms pur­chase duty of other per­sons and con­spir­acy to deal in pro­ceeds of un­law­ful ac­tiv­i­ties in con­nec­tion with in­ci­dents that oc­curred be­tween Novem­ber 2014 and March 2015.

Cham­bers’ one­time girl­friend, Bri­ana Ni­c­hole Sickel, 29, formerly of the 600 block of West Schuylkill Road, North Coven­try, was sen­tenced to six to 23 months in the county jail and two years pro­ba­tion af­ter she pleaded guilty to felony charges of mak­ing ma­te­ri­ally false writ­ten state­ments and con­spir­acy to deal in pro­ceeds of un­law­ful ac­tiv­i­ties in con­nec­tion with the same in­ci­dents.

“The court has con­cerns about get­ting guns in the hands of bad peo­ple,” Judge Gail A. Weil­heimer ad­dressed the de­fen­dants. “You were en­abling a bad per­son to have this gun.”

With the charges against Cham­bers, de­tec­tives al­leged he was “the mid­dle-man to fa­cil­i­tate the straw pur­chase” of a firearm through his girl­friend, Sickel, to Skyler Se­bas­tian Voll­muth, of North Coven­try.

De­tec­tives al­leged Sickel pur­chased a Kel­tec .380-cal­iber hand­gun from a New Hol­land, Lan­caster County, gun store on Nov. 10, 2014, and on the pa­per­work Sickel lied and claimed the gun was for her. How­ever, au­thor­i­ties said the gun made its way into the hands of Voll­muth and its se­rial num­ber was oblit­er­ated.

“Rashaun Cham­bers was the brains be­hind a fairly-in­volved straw pur­chase of a firearm to some­body who had al­ready done two shoot­ings in Pottstown Bor­ough and was now be­ing equipped for more,” said As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney Richard H. Brad­bury Jr., adding the jail sen­tences send a mes­sage to oth­ers

who might be con­tem­plat­ing sim­i­lar con­duct.

“It cer­tainly should send a mes­sage that we’re not go­ing to mess around with peo­ple who are buy­ing guns for peo­ple who shouldn’t have them and they’re cer­tainly not go­ing to do it in Pottstown. It’s an excellent

way to go to prison,” said Brad­bury, a mem­ber of the district at­tor­ney’s Pottstown com­mu­nity pros­e­cu­tion unit.

Ear­lier this year, Voll­muth, 21, of the 1200 block of East Cedarville Road, was sen­tenced to a to­tal of nine to 20 years in state prison af­ter he pleaded guilty to as­sault and firearms charges in con­nec­tion with mul­ti­ple in­ci­dents, in­clud­ing two Novem­ber 2014

shoot­ings in Pottstown.

Bal­lis­tics tests re­vealed the same weapon was used by Voll­muth dur­ing the Nov. 6 and Nov. 8 shoot­ings, but au­thor­i­ties said the gun used in the two shoot­ings was never re­cov­ered.

How­ever, on Nov. 13, 2014, po­lice and mem­bers of the Ches-Mont Emer­gency Re­sponse Team ar­rested Voll­muth at his res­i­dence and con­fis­cated an­other gun, a loaded Kel­tec .380-cal­iber firearm that had an oblit­er­ated se­rial num­ber. That’s the gun au­thor­i­ties al­leged Voll­muth ob­tained with the help of Sickel and Cham­bers.

Brad­bury and co-prose­cu­tor

Sa­man­tha L. Thomp­son sought state prison terms for Cham­bers and Sickel.

“With­out her role in this, Mr. Voll­muth and Mr. Cham­bers are thwarted in get­ting a gun to Mr. Voll­muth,” said Brad­bury, re­fer­ring to Sickel.

But de­fense lawyer Pa­tri­cia E. Cas­sidy ar­gued for le­niency on be­half of Sickel, a mother of four who had no prior crim­i­nal record and was turn­ing her life around, work­ing four jobs now to sup­port her fam­ily.

“This was an aber­ra­tion. She made a mis­take and she knows it’s a re­ally big mis­take,” Cas­sidy ar­gued.

Sickel told the judge she

“fully re­grets all the mis­takes” she made.

When po­lice ini­tially ques­tioned Sickel about the gun, she told them she sold the gun to a friend “be­cause she needed money for rent,” ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint.

Court doc­u­ments in­di­cate de­tec­tives un­cov­ered the straw pur­chase scheme with the help of wit­nesses who ap­peared be­fore the county’s in­ves­ti­gat­ing grand jury.

In seek­ing state prison time for Cham­bers, Brad­bury said that while await­ing trial on the charges, Cham­bers racked up other drug-re­lated ar­rests in other ju­ris­dic­tions.

“He thought he was help­ing out a friend. He has ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for his ac­tions,” said de­fense lawyer Fran­cis Gen­ovese, who ar­gued for le­niency on be­half of Cham­bers.

Cham­bers told the judge he made “a huge mis­take” and be­lieved he was help­ing a friend. Cham­bers, who shares a child with Sickel, said he still loves her and hopes to re­unite with her one day.

“I don’t think of my­self as a crim­i­nal,” Cham­bers said.

Brad­bury said the ar­rests of Voll­muth, Sickel and Cham­bers were the re­sult of the “out­stand­ing work” of Pottstown de­tec­tives Mark Wick­er­sham and Brooke Fisher, who in­ves­ti­gated the in­ci­dents.

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