EAST LANSING, Mich. – A Michigan State engineering student is heading to prison after officials said he became an identity thief to buy weapons parts and create illegal machine guns.
At age 12, David Elliott could fully develop websites. He was closing in on an engineering degree at Michigan State University when he decided to use his talents to commit crimes.
His friends taught him how to become an identity thief. He learned how to steal credit card information and, with the money, he bought weapons parts that he used to engineer illegal machine guns.
When federal officials raided his house, they found ammunition and gun parts he was using to turn regular guns into illegal weapons, including machine guns.
On Wednesday, his attorney asked for leniency, insisting Elliott, now 27, can turn his life around.
"The young man is a good man that I've been knowing (sic) for many, many years," Attorney Daniel Reid said. "I know he made some mistakes, but I know he's going to be on the right track."
Federal prosecutors insist Elliott didn't just steal identities and build machine guns. They said he also gave the weapons to associates, and there's no way to know what has happened or might happen with the illegal weapons.
"People could be injured," Local 4 legal expert Neil Rockind said. "People could end up being harmed. The guns could fall into the wrong hands. You don't know if someone could end up using one of those guns themselves, killing themselves or others."
Residents in Elliott's neighborhood said the judge had a tough decision to make. On one hand, Elliott is a smart young man with a lot of potential, but on the other hand, he has put lives at risk by placing dangerous weapons into the community.
Prosecutors wanted Elliott to be put away for 70 months, but that number was greatly reduced when the judge found out about his decorated academic background.
The judge called Elliott "extraordinary" and predicted that he will turn his life around. But part of the journey will include 46 months in federal prison for putting the public at risk.
Elliott spoke for a long time in court, promising the judge that after he gets out of prison he will return to Michigan State to finish his degree. He hopes to have a career in renewable energy.
Elliott said he will never touch a gun or steal from anyone ever again.