Wood County man sentenced to 5 years on federal weapons charge

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTAP) - UPDATE: 1/13/20 5:45 P.M.

A Mineral Wells man jailed on federal weapons charges in October 2018 has been sentenced to five years in prison, authorities said.

Benjamin Parsons was sentenced Monday on a charge of possessing firearms after being involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. After completing his prison sentence, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said he will be subjected to three years of supervised release, during which he will receive mental-health treatment. He pleaded guilty in May 2019.

Authorities began their investigation in 2016 after Parsons threatened police officers and claimed to have interest in terrorist organizations. Before that, authorities said he he wore a mask to a church service in Mineral Wells.

In January 2017, authorities said he told several witnesses at a church in Parkersburg that he was armed, that he had recently thought about shooting police, that he had been watching violent terrorist videos, and that he had communicated with foreign terrorists and discussed several “soft targets” in Wood County.

The Wood County Sheriff’s Department responded to those threats, seizing numerous firearms from his residence.

In February 2017, Wood County Circuit Judge Jason Wharton ordered Parsons be committed to a mental hospital. That prohibited him from possessing firearms under both state and federal law.

In October 2018, investigators learned that Parsons had acquired additional firearms including a high-capacity semiautomatic FNH model M249S 5.56 caliber assault rifle. Investigators also found that Parsons had obtained the weapon from someone, who later told investigators that he had bought it for Parsons from a licensed firearms dealer in Marietta.

At the time of Parsons’ arrest on Oct. 31, 2018, in Mineral Wells, investigators recovered the FNH assault rifle and a Molot 5.45 x 39 mm rifle from a locked case Parsons had kept at a campsite on the property where he lived.

The FNH rife was loaded with approximately 190 rounds of belted ammunition in a drum magazine. Investigators also located and seized 12 magazines for the Molot loaded with 164 rounds of ammunition, 32 additional unloaded magazines and approximately 640 rounds of 9 mm and other rifle ammunition.


ORIGINAL STORY: 5/22/19

A Mineral Wells man prohibited from having a weapon because he had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital entered a guilty plea to a federal weapons charge, the United States Attorney’s Office in Charleston said.

Benjamin Parsons, 33, is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 27. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

Parsons was arrested in October 2018 after investigators executing a search warrant found two firearms – an FNH model M249S 5.56 caliber assault rifle and a Molot 5.45 x 39 mm rifle – at a campsite in Mineral Wells where he had been living.

Prosecutors said investigators determined that someone bought the assault rifle for Parsons at a licensed firearms dealer in Marietta.

When authorities found the rifle, it was loaded with approximately 190 rounds of belted ammunition in a drum magazine. Prosecutors said the rifle is a semiautomatic civilian version of the Squad Assault Weapon used by the United States military.

Investigators also seized a Molot 5.45 x 39 mm rifle that was in a locked case at the campsite. They also recovered 12 magazines loaded with 164 rounds of ammunition, 32 additional unloaded magazines and approximately 640 rounds of 9 mm and other rifle ammunition.

“Excellent work by law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart. “These guns were definitely in the wrong hands.”

According prosecutors, Parsons was not permitted to have firearms or ammunition because a judge in Wood County Circuit Court ordered him committed to a mental hospital in February 2017.

The Wood County Sheriff’s Department, the Augsburg Narcotics and Violent Crimes Task Force, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives were all involved in the investigation.