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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Connecticut

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 26, 2021

Hartford Man Sentenced to 55 Months in Federal Prison for Gun Trafficking, Drug Dealing

Leonard C Boyle, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that STANDFORD SMITH, also known as “Pops,” 32, of Hartford, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson to 55 months of imprisonment, followed by four years of supervised release, for his role in a gun trafficking ring and for distributing crack cocaine.

Pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the sentencing occurred via videoconference.

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 after a member of the drug trafficking organization, Courtney Johnson, had moved from East Hartford to North Dakota in 2015, Lawrence Christie, of East Hartford, and others traveled to North Dakota to sell narcotics and to obtain firearms.  In June 2016, Smith drove to North Dakota with Christie and other associates.  On June 26, 2016, Smith and his associates forcibly stole a firearm from an individual in Minot.  Smith and his associates also used counterfeit currency to purchase firearms from sellers who had advertised the guns for sale on a website.  Smith and an associate then drove back to Connecticut with three of the firearms they had illegally obtained.

Christie contacted Vazquez and asked him to drive from Connecticut to North Dakota to assist him in their criminal activity.  Christie and Vazquez then transported five firearms they had illegally acquired in North Dakota to Connecticut.  Two of these five guns were found in Vazquez’s residence on July 6, 2016.

In late 2016, Smith again traveled to North Dakota and acquired another handgun.

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

Smith was arrested on June 21, 2018, and was subsequently released on bond.  On July 5, 2018, he was again arrested after he was found in possession of crack cocaine that he intended to distribute.

Smith has been detained since July 5, 2018.  On October 30, 2020, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to unlawfully transport firearms in interstate commerce, and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (“crack”) while on pre-trial release.

Vazquez, Christie and Johnson pleaded guilty to related charges.  On March 5, 2019, Vazquez was sentenced to 84 months of imprisonment, and on March 12, 2020, Christie was sentenced to 100 months of imprisonment.  Johnson awaits sentencing.

This investigation has been 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.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Component(s): 
Updated March 26, 2021