A Baltimore County police officer has been indicted for allegedly accepting bribes and kickbacks to falsify firearms training that is required to obtain handgun licenses and wear-and-carry permits, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland said.
William R. Johnson Jr., 32, of Baltimore, faces six counts of wire fraud under the indictment. He was set to have his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore Wednesday afternoon.
Johnson is accused of soliciting bribes to falsely certify that applicants for handgun qualifying licenses and wear-and-carry permits had completed legally required firearms trainings.
Applicants for a handgun qualification license must complete four hours of instruction, including classroom training, and must safely fire the weapon during a “live fire” exercise.
Applicants for a permit to wear and carry a firearm must receive at least 16 hours of firearms instruction for an initial application and another eight hours for a permit renewal. Applicants are also required to complete a firearms qualification exercise and shoot with at least 70 percent accuracy.
Federal prosecutors say that Johnson accepted bribes and kickbacks through Venmo, CashApp and Zelle between May 2019 and Sept. 2021, charging $100 for handgun qualification certification and $150 to $200 for a wear-and-carry permit certification.
After receiving payment, Johnson would send the applicants a documentation that falsely certified they had received the required training to be used with their application, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The indictment accuses Johnson of receiving six payments from five individuals who were trying to obtain either a handgun qualification license, a wear-and-carry permit, or both.
Details included in the charging document say that Johnson used Facebook Messenger to communicate with the individuals about falsifying their certification records.
“I can sign off on your training for you so you don’t have to do the course …” Johnson said in one message, according to the indictment. “You can just give me $200.”
In another message, Johnson told an applicant that she would not have to receive firearms training.
“If anyone asks just tell them you went to a class and boom,” he said in another message.
On another occasion, Johnson asked an applicant to message him questions because he was in his office and “can’t talk too open,” the indictment alleges. At least twice Johnson inquired whether the applicant knew “how to shoot.”
Johnson joined the Baltimore County Police Department in August 2008, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and became a narcotics detective in 2014. He received a qualified handgun instructor certificate from the Maryland State Police in April 2019, the office said.
The indictment claims that since April 29, 2019, Johnson has certified “at least 100 applicants for handgun qualification licenses and at least 45 for wear and carry permits,” the office said.
The FBI raided Johnson’s home earlier this month, The Baltimore Sun reported.
The Baltimore County Police Department said Wednesday that Johnson is suspended without pay.
“Any disciplinary action taken would be based on the result of a trial board, which would be scheduled & conducted after the federal case is completed,” a department spokesperson said in an email.
Chaz Ball, a lawyer who said he is representing Johnson in an “administrative matter” and not the federal case, declined to comment Wednesday.