Former Carter County sheriff pleads guilty to federal gun charges

Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Tommy Adams

Former Carter County, Mo., Sheriff Tommy Adams pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to illegally possessing and selling firearms. Adams, 32, of Ellsinore, Mo., pleaded guilty to four of the five counts he was charged with -- two counts of possession of a stolen firearm, one count of sale of a stolen firearm and one count of being a drug user in possession of firearms before U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. in Cape Girardeau, according to assistant federal prosecutor Larry Ferrell.

Adams, who remains on bond pending sentencing, had faced an additional count of possession of a stolen firearm, which was dismissed by the government.

Limbaugh set sentencing for 3 p.m. July 2.

At that time, Adams faces a maximum term of 10 years imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $250,000 on each count, followed by a maximum three-year term of supervised release.

With his plea, Adams reportedly admitted on Dec. 24, 2009, while acting as sheriff of Carter County, he responded to a complaint at the residence of Milo Couser.

After obtaining consent to search the residence, authorities reportedly located at least 18 firearms. Adams knew Couser was a felon and could not lawfully possess the firearms.

At Adams' direction, Carter County deputies collected the firearms and, instead of maintaining all of the firearms as evidence as Adams was obligated to do as sheriff, Adams and deputy Steffanie Kearbey allegedly kept the firearms and sold a number of them.

On April 2, 2011, Kearbey allegedly sold one of the firearms to a confidential informant for the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Federal and state law enforcement authorities then seized five of the suspected Couser firearms from Kearbey's residence.

Adams also admitted between December 2009 and April 2011, he sold two other stolen firearms -- one was a 9 mm Ruger handgun, which he had directed others to steal from the Carter County residence of Robert Boone on Sept. 1, 2010, and the other a 20-gauge shotgun, which he knew had previously been stolen.

On or about April 2, 2011, federal and state authorities reportedly also searched Adams' residence.

Authorities recovered a number of firearms, including a .243-caliber Remington brand rifle, which Adams admitted had been stolen during a burglary of the Michael Turner residence on or about Feb. 6, 2010.

Adams reportedly knew the Turner residence had been burglarized because he had driven the burglar to the residence to commit the burglary.

Adams further admitted that during the time he possessed the firearms he was an unlawful user of controlled substances, to include methamphetamine.

Adams, along with former deputy Steffanie Marie Kearbey, was indicted in August by a federal grand jury, which handed down a seven-count indictment.

Kearbey, who faces two counts of possession of stolen firearms, one count of sale of a stolen firearm and one count of being an unlawful user of controlled substances in possession of firearms, is expected to plead guilty at 3 p.m. Monday before Limbaugh.

The 24-year-old Ellsinore woman is accused of illegally possessing and selling firearms, some of which were taken from the department's evidence locker.

If convicted, Kearbey faces a maximum term of 10 years imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $250,000 on each count, followed by a maximum three-year term of supervised release.

The former officers were arrested in April 2011 as part of an investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol into suspected illegal activities involving Adams, who resigned as sheriff on the day of his arrest.

In addition to his federal charges, Adams also faces state charges in Jefferson County after being granted a change of venue there in his Carter County case.

Adams is charged with two felonies of distribution of a controlled substance (methamphetamine and cocaine) and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute (methamphetamine).

He is accused of distributing meth and cocaine to a confidential informant and possessing five bags of a white powder substance, which field tested positive as methamphetamine and were found in his personal truck.

Both Adams and Kearbey are free on bond related to the federal charges, and Adams also is out on bond on the state charges.

Pertinent address:

Ellsinore, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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