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80 guns stolen from suburban man hit Chicago’s streets, feds say

Gun trafficker Walter Freeman put dozens of guns on the streets of Chicago, and those guns were used in shootings and other crimes — but there’s a twist.

The guns came from a law-abiding, Joliet collector whose drug-addicted son stole them and became Freeman’s supplier, the feds say.

On Wednesday, Freeman is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court, where prosecutors will ask the judge to sentence him to prison for up to 17½ years. He pleaded guilty last year to selling crack cocaine and being a felon in possession of guns.

Freeman’s gun trafficking “contributed to the violence that our city faces and he has victimized the entire Chicago community,” prosecutors said in their sentencing memo.

But Freeman’s attorneys argue he should receive 10 years in prison. He was trying to turn his life around and was working at Caterpillar when he was arrested, his lawyers say. They added that he cooperated with prosecutors and gave them the names of his gun customers.

Freeman’s supplier, 54-year-old Timothy Vana, is awaiting sentencing.

Vana stole 80 guns from his father’s home in Joliet in 1999, prosecutors say. His father had legally purchased them, prosecutors say.

Vana traded 40 of the guns to Freeman in exchange for crack cocaine from 1999 to 2001. Freeman then sold the guns to a gang member for about $300 apiece.

In 2001, Vana was arrested for stealing the guns from his dad and spent about nine years in and out of prison.

Then in 2010, Vana and Freeman got back into business. Vana traded the remaining 40 guns to Freeman for crack cocaine, prosecutors say.

Freeman, 36, was busted in 2012 after he provided guns to an undercover agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in exchange for drugs.

The guns stolen from Vana’s father have been linked to 17 crimes in Chicago, including shootings. Freeman sold many of the guns to a high-ranking member of the Gangster Disciples, officials say.

The ATF uses serial numbers to trace the original owners of guns recovered in crimes. Often, ATF tracks guns recovered in Chicago crimes to the original purchasers at suburban Cook County gun stores and out-of-state dealers in Indiana, Mississippi and elsewhere. Critics say those stores sometimes turn a blind eye to “straw purchasers,” people who have state firearm owner’s cards and illegally buy guns for criminals who are banned from having them.