At a news conference Wednesday in New York, Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said that an undercover operation led to the recovery of 217 handguns, rifles and “assault-style weapons,” which included Tommy guns, AK-47s and AR-15s.
“In this unique case, we charged more defendants and recovered more firearms than in any other case in Brooklyn’s history,” Gonzalez said.
Authorities allege that the conspiracy was led by a Bristow, Va., man, 27-year-old Damian King, and that operation was centered in Richmond and Henrico counties, as well as in Hampton and Newport News. The indictment alleges that straw purchasers legally bought guns at Virginia stores and that 10 defendants, including King, Jacquan Spencer, 22, of Hampton, VA and Levar Shelborne, 29, of Richmond, took between two and 12 guns at a time to Brooklyn or Manhattan.
They traveled in cars or by bus as the ring operated between June 2016 and February. Once in New York, they sold firearms and ammunition at hefty prices — between $800 and $1,200 per handgun and up to $2,200 for assault weapons, authorities said.
Officials said pointedly that some defendants were “mocking Virginia’s weak gun laws” in recordings overheard on court-ordered wiretaps.
“The illegal firearms sold during this investigation amount to a sizable arsenal. When twenty-four individuals can readily engage in interstate trafficking of 217 handguns, rifles and assault-type weapons, this nation has a serious gun-control problem,” O’Neill said in a statement. “Over and over again, New York City finds itself the final destination for illegal firearms.”
Officials said the charges varied from first-, second-, and third-degree criminal sale of a firearm; second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, fourth-degree conspiracy and other charges they did not specify.
Authorities arrested the accused last week, mostly in Virginia, officials said.