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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Eight Defendants Charged With Firearms Trafficking Offenses

Defendants Allegedly Trafficked Firearms from South Carolina to New York

A ten-count indictment was unsealed today in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging eight defendants with conspiring to make false statements in the acquisition of firearms and/or with related firearm acquisitions or trafficking offenses.  One of the defendants, Curtis Clark, was also charged as being a felon in possession of a firearm. 

Clark was previously arraigned before Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky in Brooklyn on June 15, 2016.  Four of the remaining defendants were arrested earlier today in South Carolina, and their initial appearances are scheduled this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West at the federal courthouse in Florence, South Carolina.  The government will seek to remove to New York for prosecution the defendants arrested out of state.

The charges were announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Delano A. Reid, Special Agent-in-Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and William J. Bratton, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD).

“This office is committed to preventing the flow of illegal firearms up the Interstate 95 corridor, also referred to as the ‘Iron Pipeline,’ into New York,” stated United States Attorney Capers.  “Today’s arrests are another example of our resolve to prosecute those who illegally traffic firearms, as well as the straw buyers who enable the traffickers to engage in this potentially deadly and illegal business.”

“As alleged in the indictment and complaint, Curtis Clark thought that he could supply firearms along the Iron Pipeline to the streets of New York City.  His co-conspirators acted as straw purchasers, buying firearms on Clark’s behalf from dealers in South Carolina and falsifying the required Federal forms in order to make it appear that they were the actual purchasers.  This ensured that if any of the firearms were recovered in crime scenes, they could not be traced directly back to Clark.  As a result of the investigation by the ATF Joint Firearms Task Force, Clark and his co-conspirators will now face the consequences of the charged crimes.  Today’s indictment carries two messages: To those who would traffic the instruments of violent crime, we are watching and you will be caught.  To those that think straw purchasing firearms is a victimless crime, your actions can have severe consequences, both to you, and to the community where those firearms eventually wind up.  We’d like to extend our gratitude to the NYPD and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts and commitment during this investigation,” stated ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Reid.   

As alleged in the indictment and in a complaint previously unsealed against Clark, his co-defendants Jonathan Grant, Shamika Cross, Alexis Gilbert, Ganika McCollum, Alexis Morris, Ashley Sowells, and Angel Wheeler agreed to purchase firearms for him at firearms stores in South Carolina, falsely claiming that they were purchasing the guns for themselves.  Clark and others then illegally transported the guns to New York for sale in Brooklyn.  On May 28, 2014, Clark was stopped in a vehicle in Brooklyn, and nine firearms were seized, including six Glock semi-automatic pistols.  ATF agents then began the investigation into the source of the seized firearms, including reviewing the federal forms required to be completed when a firearm is purchased from a licensed firearm dealer, interviewing personnel at the gun stores involved in the sales, and interviewing the individuals who had purchased the firearms seized from Clark’s vehicle.  The investigation established that the seized firearms had been purchased for Clark by Cross, Gilbert, McCollum, Morris, Sowells, and Wheeler at firearms stores in and around Marion, South Carolina, in April and May 2014.

On January 1, 2016, Clark, a previously convicted felon, was arrested in Marion, South Carolina, in possession of a loaded Smith & Wesson .38 caliber pistol. 

The charges in the indictment and complaint are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mark E. Bini and Nomi D. Berenson.

The Defendants:

Age:  21
Marion, South Carolina

Jonathan Grant
Age:  21
Marion, South Carolina

Shamika Cross
Age:  25
Marion, South Carolina

Alexis Gilbert
Age:  24
Atlanta, Georgia

Ganika McCollum
Age:  25
Dillon, South Carolina

Alexis Morris
Age:  34
Marion, South Carolina

Ashley Sowells
Age:  25
Marion, South Carolina

Angel Wheeler
Age:  23
Marion, South Carolina

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-315

Firearms Offenses
Updated September 1, 2016