by Donna McCollum
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agents, with the help of Nacogdoches Police, raided the 59 Motel owned by well known property owner Don Beck. ATF agents and police searched every part of the rundown South Street business. It was the first time authorities made their three-month investigation public.
ATF Resident Agent in Charge Clay Alexander explained, "The allegations are that there are possibly a business being conducted here with selling firearms. That there were pawn activity, selling to prohibitive people, possession of illegal firearms, all of which we're in the process of trying to substantiate."
Agents confiscated 26 firearms including rifles, handguns, and shotguns. Two shotguns had sawed-off barrels. They were found at Beck's business and home. A trace will be submitted on each one.
At the time of the raid, Beck was outside the 59 Motel, where he operates a recycling business. We're told that he fully cooperated. Now, agents are questioning him to see if what he did inside the building was illegal.
Cases like this interest federal agents, said Alexander. "Specifically in this area, there's a large firearm trafficking trade going to illegal gangs."
Business neighbors never suspected illegal firearms directly next to them. That's not to say neighbor and business tenant Debbie Hyatt didn't observe other suspicious activity. "Not next door, but we knew of drugs and prostitution back behind."
Beck has not been arrested. By phone, the landlord said, "A lot is being made of nothing". Yet he denied an interview. Understandable, since Beck could face a 10-year felony if indicted.
"If someone is actively engaged in the business of trafficking large quantities of firearms to an unknown element, then that's something the federal government and the Nacogdoches Police are interested in," said Alexander.
Over the years, city health inspectors have repeatedly cited Beck for serious health violations, the same kind that will eventually put the 59 Motel in the dark. "I have determined hazards to property and people exist at this location. I will be in contact with TXU to have the electricity terminated at that location on Monday," said Health Inspector Dale Allred.
But, more than anything, city authorities are wanting the federal allegations to stick. The ATF will process the evidence and take it to the U.S. attorneys in Lufkin. Those attorneys will then present it to a federal grand jury.