Federal officials say they’ve shut down a “pipeline of illegal firearms” that ran from Georgia to New York.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said Wednesday it has charged nine people accused of being involved in the trafficking operation — during which guns were bought in Georgia and illegally transported for resale in New York City between August 2020 and April.
Those involved used a straw purchaser in Georgia to buy at least 87 guns from six people licensed to sell firearms in the state, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The straw purchaser bought the guns through 30 transactions and said he was buying them for himself, feds say.
But federal officials say others involved in the pipeline placed orders with him for specific weapons and paid for them using cash, mobile banking or wire payments.
“When communicating about the firearms, the defendants used coded language, referring to the weapons as ‘tvs,’ ‘knocks,’ and ‘situations,’” feds say. “In some instances, the defendants referred to the caliber or model of a firearm by referencing the jersey numbers of famous athletes.”
The guns were then given to others involved in the operation, who either resold them in Georgia or carried them to New York City to be resold, feds say.
Law enforcement officers in some cases intercepted the guns as the defendants were headed for New York.
“For example, in November 2020, law enforcement in South Carolina stopped a bus in Wellford, South Carolina, from which they seized five firearms, four pistol magazines, a high capacity .40 caliber magazine, and a nine-millimeter drum magazine — all of which were being transported by the defendants in a single backpack,” feds say.
Many of the guns that made it to New York were given to members of a gang in Brooklyn that’s “composed primarily of aspiring rappers,” feds say. Some of the guns were shown in music videos filmed by the members.
Other trafficked guns were seized “in the wake of violent crimes,” feds say. Police seized one after “a fleeing suspect discharged it at responding officers” and seized another after a shooting in the Bronx.
Feds say law enforcement officers have recovered 18 firearms that were bought by the straw purchaser in Georgia.
All nine defendants have been charged with gun trafficking and “conspiracy to commit gun trafficking and illegal transportation or receipt in state of residency of firearm purchased or acquired outside of state of residency.”
Three are also charged with “interstate travel with intent to engage in gun trafficking.”
Six of the people accused of being involved have been arrested, are in custody or were previously charged, feds say. Three remain at large.
“Today’s arrests shut down the alleged gun pipeline of these nine defendants,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said Wednesday. “These arrests should also send a message to anyone who is thinking about illegally selling guns to New Yorkers or illegally bringing guns to New York: We and our law enforcement partners are watching. And we will prosecute gun traffickers to the fullest extent of the law.”