H/T The Chicago Tribune.

Eight years was not long enough for this silly bastard.

ust days after Nathan Driggers bought a load of brand-new Ruger pistols stolen from a South Side rail yard and resold them, weapons taken in the heist started showing up at crime scenes across the city, federal prosecutors say.

The first gun was found in April 2015 concealed in a vehicle during a traffic stop; the driver claimed the weapon was for protection from the city’s onslaught of gun violence, according to prosecutors. A second, loaded with six live rounds, was recovered two days later lying on a porch in the crime-ridden Englewood neighborhood.

Over the next several months, the stolen Rugers continued to turn up at shooting scenes, during police chases and in street stops of known gang members. One gun was found by a concerned citizen hidden under his gutter, another in a garbage can in Maywood after a tipster called police.

That July, Cook County sheriff’s police raided a home and found a man wanted in Colorado for attempted murder sleeping next to a bin filled with weapons, including one of the Rugers loaded with a bullet in the chamber.

On Thursday, Driggers was sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in the 2015 train yard heist of more than 100 weapons that were being shipped by rail from the Ruger factory in New Hampshire to a wholesaler in Spokane, Wash.

Driggers, 44, was convicted by a federal jury earlier this year of acting as a fence for the robbery crew, a group of gang-affiliated friends who cased out the Norfolk Southern rail yard and used bolt cutters to bypass locks on the rail cars.

Evidence presented at trial showed Driggers, a former high school basketball standout who went on to play in the NBA and Europe, bought 30 of the 111 stolen Rugers a day after the heist and quickly resold 29 of them though a Far South Side shop where he trafficked stolen goods.

To date, only 19 of the 111 guns have been recovered, according to court records.

In asking for the maximum sentence of 10 years, prosecutors said that even though none of the guns that have turned up so far could be proved to be ones Driggers specifically sold, his actions have undoubtedly contributed to the “very dark place” Chicago finds itself in when it comes to the carnage on city streets.

“While he sits in jail, the guns he sold are going to continue to be recovered by Chicago police at scenes just like these,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Parente said. “There is no reason to believe something magical, that any of them went to law-abiding citizens. … The people who are doing the shootings are getting their guns from people like (him).”

Driggers was one of 11 people charged in the April 2015 theft, which highlighted a growing security problem at Chicago’s rail yards. The Associated Press reported earlier this year that in addition to the Ruger heist, there have been two unsolved break-ins at the same facility, one in September 2016 when 30 guns were taken and the 2014 theft of 13 military-style semi-automatic rifles.

In the wake of that report, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin called on Norfolk Southern to do more to secure its yards running through many of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. The company later said it was implementing enhanced security measures, including better train cargo locks and advance notification from shippers if guns are in a train’s cargo.

Before he was sentenced Thursday, Driggers stood in court dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and emphatically denied ever selling guns, saying it “hurts a little bit” to hear prosecutors link him to violence.

“I’m just not the monster that’s being portrayed here today, as far as putting these guns out on the streets,” Driggers told U.S. District Judge John Tharp in a long and sometimes rambling statement. “That’s just not me. That’s not what I do.”

His attorney, William Murphy, said it was “pure conjecture” on the part of prosecutors to say that any of the recovered guns were ones that Driggers sold. While Driggers has drug convictions in his background, Murphy said, he’s never been in a gang or accused of any violence. In fact, Murphy said, he is known for helping underprivileged kids in his neighborhood, where he sponsors a youth basketball program.

“He’s a big man, but he’s a gentle man,” Murphy told the judge. “He’s never picked fights with anybody, and he’s never hurt anybody.”

Driggers was a standout basketball player at Corliss High School in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood before attending the University of Montevallo in Alabama, where he became the school’s all-time leading scorer, according to court records and online sports statistics.

Drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1996, Driggers appeared in 15 games that season, scoring a total of 36 points. Later, he played professionally in Australia, Belgium and France, records show.

In his remarks, Murphy described how Driggers was able to make something of his life despite a horrific childhood that included being abandoned by his parents and forced to grow up in a series of foster homes before a basketball coach took him under his wing.

“He is the rags-to-riches story,” Murphy wrote in a court filing earlier this month. Injuries cut Driggers’ career short, however, and he eventually turned to drug dealing to help support himself, Murphy said.

In handing down the sentence, Tharp said Driggers’ background cut both ways, noting that despite his terrible upbringing he had “reached a point that millions of people would envy,” playing professional basketball in the U.S. and traveling all over Europe and the world.

“So what in the world are you doing in a federal courtroom?” Tharp asked.

Records show that on the night of the train yard burglary, three of the robbers drove first to Indiana to wait for cargo trains to arrive and wound up following one back to the Norfolk Southern yard, where they used bolt cutters to gain access to the cars.

At one point, the crew came across a shipment of women’s sandals and offloaded it. Later, they ran into a different group of thieves who happened to be stealing from the same train and had found the cache of guns stacked in a boxcar. The two groups decided to team up to steal as many of the weapons as they could, then divide up the loot later, court records show.

One of the thieves, Alexander Peebles, later told investigators they all took the guns back to the basement of a co-defendant, Elgin Lipsomb, according to a court filing by prosecutors earlier this year. There, they gleefully ripped open the packages. “Oh man, these mother——- are pretty!” Peebles allegedly told police.

On the day after the heist, three co-defendants — Terry Walker, Frederick Lewis and Marcel Turner — backed a van up to Driggers’ shop at 127th and Halsted streets and showed him the guns they had for sale.

Turner, who also cooperated with authorities in the case, testified at Driggers’ trial that Driggers paid $8,000 in cash for the 30 Rugers — about half of the estimated retail value.

At Thursday’s sentencing, Parente said it was clear Driggers was out to make a fast buck regardless of the effect his actions might have on his own neighborhood. If Driggers was truly the community-minded person he purported to be, he would have told the crew to “get out of here'” as soon as he saw they were selling stolen guns, Parente said.

Meanwhile, the stolen pistols have continued to surface at crime scenes, most recently on May 25, when police in south suburban Dolton responded to a call of three suspicious men on the porch of a boarded-up property, according to the prosecution filing.

As officers approached, one of the men fled, leaving behind a .45-caliber Ruger that had been taken from the train, loaded with 14 rounds.

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