Suburban man arrested after authorities find over 100 devices used to convert pistols to machine guns

WGN Investigates

DOLTON, Ill. — It’s a small piece of metal that can turn a pistol into a machine gun.

ATF agents executed a search warrant on a home in south suburban Dolton where they found 117 so-called “switches,” which illegally convert semi-automatic guns into rapid firing weapons.

Leonard Johnson, also known as “Scrap,” of south suburban Robbins, is now facing federal firearms charges. 

A criminal complaint alleges Johnson confessed to selling the “switches” for as much as $500 each. 

In 2019, WGN Investigates reported on the threats these devices pose and their prevalence in the Chicago-area. At the time, the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms had identified more than 2500 individuals nationwide who may have obtained the part. At least 118 people, possessing a total of 256 switches, were from the Chicago region.

“Devices that are designed and intended to convert firearms into machine guns pose a significant threat to public safety,” ATF spokesperson Kimberly Nerheim said after Wednesday’s charges.  “ATF agents in the Chicago Field Division will continue to work diligently with their state, local and federal partners to identify sources of these devices to ensure the safety of the community.”

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