Felon who stored guns and sold drugs from Washington County gas station sentenced

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A former Washington County gas station manager with a history of threatening people with guns and obtaining his weapons through straw purchasers was sentenced Wednesday to 46 months in federal prison.

Felix Cruz, 50, a former resident of Houston, Pa., who is already serving a state prison term for making terroristic threats and a gun offense, also will be on probation for three years after his release.

Federal prosecutors said he stored five illegal guns and sold drugs from the Sunoco station in Canonsburg where he worked.

The investigation was part of a larger effort by the U.S. attorney’s office and local law enforcement to crack down on straw purchasers who buy guns for felons.

State police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found Cruz’s stash of guns when they raided the gas station Nov. 8, 2011.

They recovered a pistol, two semiautomatic rifles with high-capacity magazines, another rifle, a shotgun and 1,290 rounds of ammunition.

Cruz wasn’t allowed to have guns because of a felony conviction in 1991 in New York.

ATF agents said the weapons had been bought for him by others, three of whom have been prosecuted in state or federal courts as part of the investigation. His wife, Olga Rivera, bought him the shotgun; she was sentenced earlier this year in Washington County for providing a gun to a felon.

A second woman who obtained the pistol for him was sentenced to federal prison.

Another convicted felon who supplied him with the two semiautomatic rifles is also the subject of a federal prosecution.

In seeking a stiffer sentence, prosecutors said Cruz was also dealing synthetic drugs from the gas station, had repeatedly obtained weapons despite being a felon and had shown a pattern of “violent and combustible behavior.”

That behavior, prosecutors said, included a March 2011 incident in which he pointed a loaded gun at his daughter’s head and threatened that “the only way she was going to leave the residence was in an ambulance or a body bag.”

On the day before the federal raid, assistant U.S. attorney Craig Haller said, Cruz drove to a bar, left an infant in the car, walked inside, pulled a gun, placed a bullet on the bar and told the bartender she should give the bullet to someone with whom he was feuding.

“Mr. Cruz left a 21-day-old infant unattended in the vehicle he drove to the bar while he was inside, which further highlights the asinine (at best) nature of his conduct,” wrote Mr. Haller in a pre-sentence filing.

Cruz was sentenced last year in that incident to 21⁄2 to five years in state prison.

Mr. Haller asked that Cruz be evaluated for mental illness in prison.

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