Convicted gun thief faces possible life sentence

A Lafayette man convicted in Baton Rouge federal court of stealing and selling more than 30 firearms from a Port Allen gun club could spend the rest of his life behind bars, U.S. Attorney Walt Green said Friday.

Joseph D. Melancon, 45, who had previously worked at Hunter’s Run Gun Club, was found guilty Thursday of firearms conspiracy charges, stealing from a licensed firearms dealer and possessing firearms as a convicted felon.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, who presided over Melancon’s four-day jury trial, did not set a sentencing date.

Melancon and Dustin Ray, 31, of New Iberia, burglarized Hunter’s Run on April 13, 2012, and stole more than 30 guns, Green said in a prepared statement.

Prosecutors said that before 2012, Melancon racked up no less than 18 convictions from the mid-1990s until 2007 for burglary, forgery, theft and possession of a stolen pistol.

The firearms stolen from Hunter’s Run included rifles and shotguns, authorities have said.

Melancon faces up to life in prison in the Hunter’s Run case.

Melancon, with the assistance of Jeremy J. Smothers, 32, also of New Iberia, sold guns stolen from the club to others, including convicted felon David Narcisse Jr., 31, of Lafayette, Green said.

Ray, Smothers and Narcisse have pleaded guilty in the case and are awaiting sentencing.

“Stopping violent, career criminals from stealing, possessing and selling guns to other criminals is critically important to the safety of our community,” Green stated. “I am proud of the prosecutors and agents who worked diligently on this important matter and look forward to our office’s continued vigilance against armed felons.”

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as the sheriff’s offices in West Baton Rouge and Lafayette parishes.