FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
FEDERALLY LICENSED FIREARMS DEALER, STREET GANG MEMBERS CHARGED FOR ILLEGAL GUN TRAFFICKING CONSPIRACY
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General John Ashcroft, Assistant Attorney General Christopher A. Wray of the Criminal Division, Acting Director Bradley Buckles of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as U.S. Attorneys Christopher J. Christie of New Jersey and Greg Lockhart of the Southern District of Ohio announced today that criminal charges have been filed against several individuals, including a federally licensed firearms dealer in Ohio and members of a violent street gang in New Jersey, for their roles in an alleged conspiracy to illegally traffic guns across state lines.
An indictment returned by a federal grand jury in New Jersey alleges that approximately 76 guns were illegally transferred to members of the Double II Bloods street gang in East Orange, N.J., through “straw buyers” who were all students at Wilberforce University, a small school a few miles from the Hole in the Wall Gun Store in Xenia, Ohio.
James Dillard, the owner of the Hole in the Wall Gun Shop, Quadree Smith, the leader or so-called 105 or Five Star General of the Double II Bloods, and two other Bloods members were charged with conspiracy to deal in firearms without a license. The indictment identifies by initials three unindicted co-conspirators, all Wilberforce students, who acted as straw purchasers. Others charged in the conspiracy include former Wilberforce students-turned-gun traffickers, who allegedly brokered the deals with Dillard in Ohio and then transferred the guns to Smith and the other Bloods members in travels between Ohio, New Jersey and New York.
Dillard was also charged by criminal complaint in the Southern District of Ohio with three counts of being an Ohio federal firearms licensee and knowingly selling firearms to a resident of another state. In all, a total of 14 people were charged in the Southern District of Ohio as part of the alleged gun-running conspiracy.
While Dillard is not alleged to have known who the ultimate owners of the guns would be, he knew that the “buyers” - the Wilberforce students - were merely paperwork intermediaries recruited by co-conspirators to legitimize the sales in Ohio. Dillard, although a licensed firearms dealer, is accused of aiding and abetting others in the conspiracy to deal in firearms without a license.
Among the examples charged in the New Jersey indictment, Dillard made two sales - one for 16 firearms, another for 15 - to two different straw buyers on April 22, 2002. Just five days earlier, Dillard allegedly sold 25 firearms to one of those same straw buyers.
Of the 76 weapons identified in the indictment as coming from the Ohio gun shop, 20 have been recovered by local, state and federal law enforcement. All of the recovered guns were involved in crimes. The guns were found to have been used in the aid of drug trafficking, in shootings, carried by members of different Bloods sects in New Jersey, or carried by previously convicted felons.
The New Jersey indictment alleges that the student straw buyers were recruited by Dillard’s co-conspirators to use their real identities for the purchases, which were negotiated in advance between Dillard and a former Wilberforce student, identified as Co-Conspirator A in the indictment. According to the indictment, Dillard would assist Co-Conspirator A in deciding which firearms to purchase and recommended certain guns. Dillard then allegedly provided the firearms to Co-Conspirator A through the three straw purchasers.
Co-Conspirator A and another Wilberforce student, Co-Conspirator B, then allegedly sold the guns to Quadree Smith, who then resold them to Double II Bloods members.
Co-conspirator A is identified in federal criminal charges filed in Ohio as Jarrien Aguilar, a former Wilberforce student. Aguilar has pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and false statements in buying a firearm. Co-conspirator B, former Wilberforce student Seon Paton, has also pled guilty in the Southern District of Ohio to conspiracy charges.
Two other co-conspirators have pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and false statements, respectively, in the Southern District of Ohio. In addition, criminal complaints out of the Southern District of Ohio charge eight straw buyers, including the three identified in connection with the New Jersey conspiracy, with knowingly making false statements to a federal firearms licensee. In all, the criminal charges in Ohio allege that approximately 200 guns were purchased illegally, most of which were moved out of Ohio.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Quadree Smith is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
“Today’s charges underscore our intention to prosecute all of those who are involved in the illegal trafficking of firearms,” said U.S. Attorney Greg Lockhart of the Southern District of Ohio. “People may think they’re just making easy money by buying a gun for someone else, but they are actually committing a federal crime and will be dealt with accordingly.”
“We intend to sit this Ohio gun dealer in front of a jury at the same defense table as the leader of one of New Jersey’s most violent gangs,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie of the District of New Jersey. “Our message to gun dealers in other states is simple: Straighten up your act, follow the law, or we will prosecute you.”
In the past two months, a number of straw buyer and interstate firearms trafficking investigations and prosecutions have highlighted the successful, cooperative efforts to stem gun crime:
In a case out of South Carolina, ten defendants have pled guilty over the past two months to charges relating to trafficking almost fifty firearms from South Carolina to New York.
On Monday, December 8, the lead defendant and three co-defendants in a North Carolina-based weapons trafficking scheme pled guilty to charges relating to the trafficking of nearly seventy handguns, including several to the Washington, D.C., area.
In U.S. v. Smith, the defendant was found guilty on Wednesday, December 10, of charges related to illegal firearms trafficking from North Carolina to New York. He will be sentenced in March.
In yet another case out of South Carolina, over the past four months, all twelve defendants have pled guilty to charges for their roles in a straw purchasing weapons scheme in which almost forty firearms were transported to New York illegally.
In U.S. v. Quaites, the defendant pled guilty yesterday to conspiracy to make false statements in connection with the acquisition of a firearm and to charges relating to trafficking about forty firearms from Arkansas to Chicago.
Project Safe Neighborhoods, a national commitment to reduce gun crime on the local level, links federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecutors, and community leaders in a comprehensive strategy of deterrence, prevention, and prosecution of gun crime. Through those cooperative efforts, federal prosecutions of gun crimes have reached record levels.