44 arrested in undercover probe of District's gun, drug trade
Friday, December 18, 2009
D.C. police and federal agents announced Thursday the arrest of more than 40 people on felony weapons and drug charges as the result of a seven-month undercover operation.
Investigators from the D.C. Police Narcotics and Special Investigations Division led the sting, in which undercover officers posed as drug and gun buyers inside a Northeast Washington auto body shop. Police said confidential informants brought dozens of men willing to sell illegal goods at EB Autobody, the phony business set up by police in June.
"This was the most successful operation like this that we have done in Washington, D.C., since the 1970s," Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said at a news conference.
Federal charges were brought against 44 people and police collected $1.5 million worth of cocaine, crack cocaine and PCP along with 123 guns, including 25 assault rifles, Lanier said.
The FBI provided video surveillance of the transactions, and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives helped trace the source of the guns. Authorities bought guns from as far away as Florida and Kentucky, many of which were stolen in burglaries or used in shootings, officials said.
"To the undercover officers, God bless . . . there are burglars, stick-up men, career criminals that now will be having a happy holiday season behind bars," said Richard Marianos, assistant special agent in charge of the ATF Washington Field Office.
Lanier said she hoped the arrests would help lower violent crimes across the city. Police have to be "creative" to learn how guns move around the District, she said. Many of the suspects were known gang members from neighborhoods in Northwest, Northeast and Southeast, officials said.
Lanier praised the undercover officers, who faced significant risks in working without bulletproof vests with people bringing multiple firearms into the shop.
"I was more nervous than they were," Lanier said. "I almost shut them down 35 times."