Monroe County's former top unelected official, Thomas Willi -- awaiting trial on charges of knowingly selling guns to felons -- could be further charged based on recorded conversations he had while in county lockup.
Willi, 51, and his business partner Jarvis Nelson Osorio, 35, are accused of selling guns to known felons out of their Outbreak Ordnance firearms shop on Big Pine Key. Prosecutors say Willi and Osorio also hired non-felons to fill out federally required purchasing paperwork as an elaborate scheme to hide who actually bought the weapons.
Federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Drug Enforcement Administration raided the store and arrested Willi and Osorio on July 17, 2015.
They were released from jail after each paying 10 percent of their $50,000 bond. But a federal judge ordered them held without bond in October for violating the conditions of release after a machine gun addressed to Outbreak Ordnance was sent to the post office on Big Pine Key.
Now, federal prosecutors are taking an interest in what Willi and Osorio had to say while in the Monroe County jail, according to court papers. The U.S. Attorney's Office told defense lawyers last week it has recordings of face-to-face conversations Willi and Osorio had with unnamed third parties.
"The government has obtained a series of conversations recorded by the Monroe County jail between Osorio and third parties and between Willi and third parties at the jail at or about the time they were incarcerated and litigating their detention," Osorio's lawyer Edward Shohat wrote in a Jan. 7 filing to U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez.
Shohat said what the defendants said in those conversations could be the basis for new charges.
"The government has stated that they do not presently intend to use these recordings at trial on the existing charges," Shohat wrote. "However, the government is seriously considering superseding the present indictment with additional charges and has advised that the recordings are believed to be relevant to new charges under consideration."
Shohat and Osorio's and Willi's other attorneys unsuccessfully sought this week to transfer their clients to the Federal Detention Center in Miami to prepare for trial, scheduled to begin April 4.
Because much of the evidence against Willi and Osorio involves video and audio recorded conversations between them and undercover confidential informants, the attorneys wanted their clients moved to Miami-Dade because Monroe County jail has no facility where the defendants to review the recorded evidence.
None of the attorneys live in the Keys, so moving Willi and Osorio also makes visiting their clients more convenient. Osorio's other attorney is Michael Pizzi. Willi is represented by Benedict Kuehne and Michael Davis. The lawyers did not return an e-mailed question asking them about the topics of the recorded conversations and what possible new charges prosecutors may seek.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office will not comment on current cases.
Federal prosecutors told Shohat on Jan. 5 that the jail also has two sets of recorded telephone conversations Willi and Osorio each had with people outside the jail, as well as other conversations the two men had with visitors.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office do not have possession of the recordings and have not reviewed the conversations, according to Shohat.
"The defense is in the process of determining whether to seek production, by subpoena or otherwise, of these recordings," Shohat wrote.