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Press Release

East Hartford Man Sentenced to More Than 8 Years in Federal Prison for Gun Trafficking, Drug Dealing

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Connecticut

John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that LAWRENCE CHRISTIE, also known as “L,” 28, of East Hartford, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Victor A. Bolden in Bridgeport to 100 months of imprisonment, followed by four years of supervised release, for his role in a gun trafficking ring and for distributing crack cocaine.

This matter stems from an investigation headed by the ATF and East Hartford Police Department into drug trafficking and related acts of violence by a group of individuals operating out of the Mayberry Village housing complex in East Hartford.

According to court documents and statements made in court, sometime in or before 2014, Daniel Vazquez, of East Hartford, and others were robbed at gunpoint while they were attempting to purchase marijuana that they intended to redistribute.  On July 6, 2016, Vazquez saw the person who had robbed him driving a car at the intersection of Tolland Street and Moore Avenue in East Hartford and shot at him.  Vazquez was arrested on that date, and a search of his residence revealed a Ruger LC93 9mm handgun, which he had used in the shooting, and a Taurus 9mm handgun.  The two firearms were traced to Minot, North Dakota.

The investigation revealed that Christie was trafficking cocaine, crack and marijuana in and around Hartford.  Shortly after his associate, Courtney Johnson, moved from East Hartford to North Dakota at the end of 2015, Christie began trafficking cocaine to North Dakota.  On June 26, 2016, Christie and several associates forcibly stole a firearm from an individual in Minot.  After the theft, Christie contacted Vazquez and asked him to drive from Connecticut to North Dakota to assist him in purchasing firearms.  Vazquez and Justin Gay, also from East Hartford, then drove to North Dakota and stayed with Johnson.  In Minot, Christie, Vazquez, Johnson, Gay and others, sometimes using counterfeit currency, purchased firearms from sellers who had advertised the guns for sale on a website.  Christie, Vazquez and Gay then transported five firearms from North Dakota to Connecticut.  Two of these five guns were found in Vazquez’s residence on July 6, 2016.

To date, the investigation has revealed that at least nine firearms that were obtained in North Dakota were transported to Connecticut.  Some of the guns have been used in shootings in the Hartford area.

Between September and November 2017, investigators conducted controlled purchases of distribution quantities of crack from Christie.

Christie has been detained since his arrest on November 7, 2017.  On October 31, 2018, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base (“crack”) and one count of conspiracy to unlawfully transport firearms in interstate commerce.

On March 5, 2019, Vazquez was sentenced to 84 months of imprisonment.  Courtney Johnson, Justin Gay, Andre Johnson and Eyisiel Ortega have pleaded guilty to firearm and drug offenses related to this scheme and await sentencing.

This investigation is being conducted by the ATF and East Hartford Police Department, with the assistance of the Connecticut Department of Correction and the Minot (N.D.) Police Department.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Stolfi Collins.

Updated March 12, 2020

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
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