(STL.News) – A Helena man who admitted possessing five firearms and ammunition after having been convicted of a felony was sentenced today to 51 months in prison and three years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.

Colter Joseph Epler, 40, pleaded guilty in June to prohibited person in possession of firearms and ammunition.

U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon presided.

In court documents filed in the case, the prosecution said that on June 24, 2019, Epler, a convicted felon on state supervision, possessed five firearms and ammunition at his residence.  During a search of Epler’s residence by Montana Probation and Parole officers after Epler admitted using alcohol, officers found a firearm in his hamper and four firearms in his garage, along with ammunition of various calibers.  Epler was convicted of a felony in Lewis and Clark County in 2013 and was prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paulette Stewart prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Montana Department of Corrections–Probation and Parole Office.

This case is part of Project Guardian, a Department of Justice initiative launched in the fall of 2019 to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws.  Through Project Guardian, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Montana is working to enhance coordination of its federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement partners in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes.  In addition, Project Guardian supports information sharing and taking action when individuals are denied a firearm purchase by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for mental health reasons or because they are a prohibited person.

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