SOUTH BEND – A La Porte man who was caught carrying an illegal firearm on two separate occasions last year has been sentenced to five years in federal prison, prosecutors announced Friday.

Mario Lamont Ward II, 23, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. after pleading guilty to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch II.

Ward was sentenced to 60 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release.

According to court records in the case, in July 2018, Ward was found to be in possession of a firearm after being convicted of a felony offense.

He was arrested in a car that led police on a high-speed chase and was found to have a stolen 9 mm firearm, prosecutors said. The car crashed in a residential neighborhood, after which a second stolen 9 mm firearm was found in the car, along with more than 50 grams of marijuana.

While criminal charges from that incident were pending, Ward was released under court supervision.

But in January 2019, while on release, investigators went to arrest Ward at his home for a pre-trial release violation, according to prosecutors. During that arrest, investigators found a Glock 9 mm handgun and ammunition, which Ward admitted to handling, according to a plea agreement filed in February. They also found more than 50 grams of marijuana, and more than $1,000 in cash, according to court records.

The two cases were later merged, and the one-year sentence imposed for the first offense will run concurrently for a total of 60 months, prosecutors said.

The case was investigated by ATF with assistance from the Michigan City Police Department, La Porte County Drug Task Force and U.S. Marshals Fugitive Apprehension Street Team.

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