PORTLAND — A Leeds man accused of illegally buying as many as 40 guns for a gun trafficking conspiracy was held without bail Thursday.

Benjamin Turcotte, 45, appeared in U.S. District Court on a charge of false statement during acquisition of a firearm from a licensed firearm dealer, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

He turned himself in to authorities last week, eight months after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Noah Falk told U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Karen Frink Wolf at Turcotte’s detention hearing Thursday that, after learning of the warrant for his arrest, the defendant hid at a friend’s home in Chesterville, not using his cellphone, while eluding authorities.

Falk argued that Turcotte should remain in custody until his trial, saying he was a flight risk.

“He has every incentive to do so,” Falk said.


Falk said Turcotte had bought up to 40 handguns at area gun shops for a man nicknamed “Tony” over a period of roughly three months in exchange for $50 per gun and crack cocaine.

“He’s the most prolific ‘straw’ I’ve seen in this district” of Maine, Falk said, referring to the term used when someone buys something on behalf of someone else who is unable or isn’t willing to make that purchase.

Falk said “Tony” has been linked to a firearms trafficking conspiracy that involves the resale of more than 100 guns that were sent to Massachusetts and New York.

Falk said federal agents were able to track the text exchanges between Turcotte and “Tony.”

“The evidence here is very strong,” Falk said.

Because Turcotte’s activities allegedly supported a gun trafficking conspiracy, Falk said Turcotte’s release would pose a danger to the community.


Federal public defender David Beneman said his client has a minor criminal record, has lived in Maine all his life and has no assets.

Beneman said Turcotte could be released to a sober living residence under supervision and with electronic monitoring.

But Wolf agreed with Falk that Turcotte presented a flight risk, noting the eight months he eluded authorities before turning himself in.

She also agreed the evidence against him was “strong.”

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