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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

William Widmaier, Mustafa Ali

Mustafa Ali, 36, is charged with killing armored car guards William Widmaier, 65, and Joseph Alullo, 54, on Oct. 4 as they were servicing an ATM outside a Wachovia bank in Northeast Philadelphia.
Police found the 9 mm semiautomatic pistol where Ali told them he had buried it, investigators said.
Authorities arrested Jason Lighty, 26, who they said legally bought the pistol in a gun shop in 2003. He later illegally sold it to his co-worker Eric Benson, 25, who also was arrested, Abraham said.
Lighty's attorney, James A. Funt, said his client is a churchgoing, law-abiding husband and father of two toddlers. He wanted the gun out of his house and sold it to a co-worker who said he was the victim of a robbery and assault, Funt said.
Lighty "made a very bad lapse in judgment ... but does not fit the profile (of a straw purchaser) in any way, shape or form," Funt said.
Benson did not yet have an attorney in the gun case, according to court records, and a telephone number for him could not be found.
Investigators are continuing to look into whether others had the gun before it allegedly made its way into Ali's hands.
Felons are prohibited from owning firearms. Those trying to get guns typically enlist straw purchasers, who then commonly report the guns as stolen in an attempt to avoid liability if the weapons are used in crimes, authorities say.
The alleged straw buyers _ two of whom are women accused of buying guns for their boyfriends _ face felony charges including making false statements in connection with a firearm, transfer of a firearm to an ineligible person and other counts. Abraham said in cases when the straw purchaser knew the gun would be used in a crime, they could be charged as an accessory before the fact.
"We want to send a message to the straw purchasers that this is something you don't want to do," Corbett said.
Straw purchasers should serve time in state prison, not simply be sentenced to probation, because they are "aiding in the violence that is striking this city," Corbett said.
In all, 112 arrests have been made and 190 firearms seized since the December 2006 creation of the task force, which includes 27 investigators and about five prosecutors working with city police.
Abraham said the task force existed largely through the efforts of state Sen. Vincent Fumo, who worked to get $5 million from the Legislature for 2007 and is seeking the same amount for this year.

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