Saturday, July 13, 2024

After ATF raid, business owner gets 15 months for violating his probation

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – A Burke County business owner faces 15 months of confinement after being found in violation of his federal probation after his auto shop was raided by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

At a hearing Tuesday in federal court, Daniel Cates was found in violation of his probation stemming from his prior conviction in 2022.

The same judge in that case was the judge in this matter.

Twenty-four people showed up on Cates’ behalf at Tuesday’s hearing.

The sentencing details are as follows:

  • 15 months of confinement followed by a supervised release of 12 months.
  • Re-imposition of the original probation conditions.

“The victims are your family, your friends,” the judge told him. “Revocation is mandatory.”

Cates had more than 15 character references, two of which were sealed.

The whole proceeding took about an hour.

The government was really interested in two specific firearms.

One was an old AR 15 that had full auto function, which requires a tax stamp. Also of interest was another AR platform with a suppressor on it, which you need a tax stamp for. It was just a regular rifle, but it had a suppressor.

Cates’ attorney had suggested another probation.

With house monitoring and GPS tracking be the very minimum for this US code 18 35 65 class a violation. Two of the firearms were purchased after his initial conviction in 22 which my questions are who filled out the ATF form 4473, which if you forge any items on that form, it’s a separate felony violation not applying for a tax stamp as its own separate violation.   The lawyer, for Cates also mentioned something about having to address charges in the future, so maybe that’s what he’s talking about. I’m not sure.

ATF and the Department of Homeland Security said they found 45 weapons in Cates’ possession, 25 at Cates Firestone and 20 at his home, according to authorities. That included a rifle with a silencer and 6,000 rounds of ammunition found between both locations.

That was while he was on probation for involvement in a decades-long illegal gambling operation.

Last year, the I-TEAM conducted an investigation of Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams’ connection to the owner of the business, Daniel Cates.

Daniel Cates is a name our I-TEAM has run across before. Last year, the I-TEAM looked into the connection between Cates and Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams. Sheriff Williams insisted the sheriff’s department use Cates Firestone for deputy vehicle repairs and maintenance, instead of Burke County’s own maintenance shop with county employees.

Cates Firestone had already been at the center of a federal investigation.

Cates and Grady Brandon Mobley pleaded guilty in a decades-long illegal gambling operation — where hundreds of thousands of dollars in winnings were illegally funneled through businesses, including $250,000 funneled through Cates Firestone.

Alfonzo Williams

Cates was sentenced to three years of probation. Mobley was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay more than $200,000 in restitution.

Now, Cates finds himself headed back to court after this most recent search of his business.

Court records show Mobley violated his probation on May 2 for using and possessing alcohol – along with getting arrested.

The I-TEAM obtained federal court documents and found Williams was a character witness for Mobley, lobbying for a lesser sentence and calling him a “model citizen.”

Campaign records show both the Mobley and Cates families were big contributors to Williams’ campaign for sheriff.

Authorities haven’t released information about what they were looking for in the recent ATF raid. The I-TEAM has requested search warrants from federal court, but they are not public record yet.

Court documents show a Notice of Hearing as to Daniel Cates. The final probation revocation hearing set for June 13 at 10 a.m. in Augusta before District Judge J. Randall Hall.

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