Cops: Addict gave guns to teen for drugs

Michael Burak , 16 (above),allegedly received four guns from Luke D'Ercole (below) in exchange for heroin.
Michael Burak , 16 (above),allegedly received four guns from Luke D'Ercole (below) in exchange for heroin.
Posted: February 15, 2013

HEROIN ADDICTS do dumb, desperate things to score their next fix.

Luke D'Ercole, 32, did something that was almost deadly, too: In exchange for heroin, he bought four guns for a 16-year-old who used one to shoot another man.

That man survived, but D'Ercole doomed himself to prison time in a case that authorities said shows the importance of cracking down on straw purchasers, people who illegally buy guns for those not permitted to buy guns themselves, including felons and juveniles.

"We must crush straw purchasers. We can't let them profit off the bloodshed," Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said in a news conference Thursday announcing D'Ercole's arrest. "We had 334 homicides in this city last year. Eighty-five percent of them were committed with handguns, and not one was a lawfully possessed handgun."

Williams spoke from a podium near the spot on Van Kirk Street near Belden, in Oxford Circle, where Michael Burak allegedly used a 9-mm semiautomatic Glock that D'Ercole allegedly gave him to shoot Jonathan Espinoza, 20, on Oct. 28.

One bullet hit Espinoza in the shoulder and another grazed his head, but he survived, Williams said. Burak, who lives around the corner on Shisler Street, is now jailed, charged as an adult with attempted murder.

D'Ercole, of Lawndale Avenue near Levick Street, was arrested Wednesday and charged with illegal transfer and other gun offenses, corruption of a minor and related offenses. He remains jailed on $500,000 bail and faces a March 4 preliminary hearing.

The state Attorney General Office and the District Attorney's Office Gun Violence Task Force investigated the case.

Detectives found that D'Ercole bought the Glock, two .380-caliber semiautomatic handguns and a .22-caliber revolver for Burak, each on a separate occasion, between Oct. 17 and Oct. 23, Williams said. Police confiscated the Glock in an unrelated narcotics investigation on Frankford Avenue and determined that D'Ercole had bought it.

D'Ercole admitted to investigators that he bought the guns for Burak in exchange for heroin. He told police that he returned two firearms to buy others when Burak "was not happy" with D'Ercole's selection, Williams said.

"We have a public-health problem in America when it comes to guns," Williams added. "Too many neighborhoods are littered with teddy bears and balloons [to mourn] young lives lost."


On Twitter: @DanaDiFilippo

Blog: phillyconfidential.com

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