Three men pled guilty to unlicensed firearms dealing at three Dallas-Fort Worth-area gun shows. Photo: Licensed dealers display their firearms at Mesquite's Big Town Gun Show. 📷

DALLAS, Texas — Three men pleaded guilty last week to engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license at several Dallas-Fort Worth-area gun shows and now face up to five years in prison, federal prosecutors announced.

"Federal law requires that dealers engaged in the business of dealing firearms – defined as repeatedly devoting time and attention to purchasing and reselling guns for monetary gain – obtain Federal Firearms Licenses and run background checks on potential buyers," read a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Texas. "Hobbyists who sell weapons in one-off private transactions are not required to be licensed or to run background checks."

All three men, 56-year-old Raleigh Merriam Selby III, 57-year-old Jack Don Sims, and 79-year-old James Cary Bennett, plead guilty to unlicensed dealing and, in plea documents, admitted to not conducting background checks or entering potential buyers into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

During an undercover investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives (ATF), the defendants were caught engaging in unlicensed dealing at gun shows at Big Town in Mesquite, Texas, Market Hall in Dallas, Texas, and Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Several of those firearms ended up in the hands of prohibited persons, including a man convicted of drug dealing, another convicted of willful cruelty to a child, and others were recovered at crime scenes from California to Florida to Mexico, according to federal prosecutors.

"Both Mr. Bennett and Mr. Sims admit they explicitly promoted that sales at their booths involved 'no paperwork' – in other words, no background check," continued the statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office. "Mr. Bennett even admits that he dealt in .380 caliber pistols, 'preferred firearms for trafficking to Mexico.'”

“Today, we’re taking aim at unlicensed dealers who allow guns to fall into dangerous hands,” stated U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “I’m proud to bring this case under Project Guardian, the Attorney General’s gun violence reduction initiative. Hopefully, these pleas send a message to would-be offenders: If you violate federal firearms laws, you will be held accountable for the guns you’ve illegally injected into our communities.”

“Engaging in the business of selling firearms without a license circumvents regulations designed to identify prohibitors such as felony offenses, dishonorable discharge from military service or substance abuse," stated ATF Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey C. Boshek II. “The firearms transfers made by Mr. Bennett, Mr. Selby and Mr. Sims undermine community safety and hinder the investigation of firearms recovered at crime scenes.”