AG announces 35 indictments related to gun trafficking

TRENTON, NJ — On June 3, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced a wave of 35 indictments secured by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice in just over two months charging numerous defendants with illegal gun trafficking and/or possession of illicit weapons, including untraceable ghost guns, assault rifles and outlawed large-capacity ammunition magazines. Ghost guns are not registered and do not have serial numbers, making them difficult to trace and making it more difficult for law enforcement to solve gun crimes.

The indictments charge a total of 81 defendants, a majority of whom face various weapons offenses in connection with the following illegal weapons seized in the investigations: 96 illegal guns, including 16 assault rifles and 1 machine gun; and 53 illegal large-capacity ammunition magazines.

The illegal guns include a total of 10 ghost guns that do not bear federally registered serial numbers. Most of the guns traced in these cases were purchased in various states other than New Jersey, including primarily Pennsylvania and South Carolina, as well as Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, among others.

Five of the indictments charge defendants with illegally trafficking guns. The other indictments charge possession of illegal weapons by other alleged criminals, including individuals charged with using guns in violent crimes, alleged drug dealers, an alleged human trafficker and a fugitive charged with credit card fraud. Thirty-four of the indictments stem from investigations conducted between January 2019 and February 2021, with most charging conduct in 2020 and 2021. One case dates to 2018.

Thirty-three indictments were secured by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Two indictments were secured by the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau.

The Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey State Police consistently join with other law enforcement partners to conduct strategic investigations focused on disrupting the supply-line of weapons trafficking into violent areas, arresting drug dealers and seizing existing weapons in those areas, and aggressively prosecuting all defendants who traffic, use or possess guns in connection with criminal activity.

“We are aggressively targeting those responsible for the proliferation of guns and gun violence in our communities, including gun traffickers, drug dealers and other criminals who arm themselves with illegal weapons,” Grewal said. “Assault rifles have long been a weapon of choice for gangs and drug dealers, and more recently there has been an alarming increase in untraceable ghost guns, which often are seized by police after they have been used in a shooting. By focusing on illegal guns, working to shut down the iron pipeline of firearms from other states, and prosecuting offenders under New Jersey’s tough gun laws, we are taking guns and armed criminals off of the street — and undoubtedly saving lives.”

“These 35 indictments are the product of strong collaboration by the Division of Criminal Justice and law enforcement agencies at all levels, all across New Jersey and into states such as Pennsylvania and South Carolina, which were source states for guns allegedly sold by certain defendants,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “By cracking down on gun traffickers, armed drug dealers and others with illegal weapons, we are working to reduce the gun violence and drug dealing that are claiming far too many lives in New Jersey and undermining the safety and security of our communities. I commend our Gangs and Organized Crime Bureau, Specialized Crimes Bureau, the New Jersey State Police and all of our law enforcement partners for these outstanding results.”

“Illegal weapons trafficking has unfortunately evolved over time. The proliferation of ghost guns, which can be assembled from parts originating from across the country, has made it more difficult to solve violent crimes and disrupt trafficking networks, but fortunately law enforcement has evolved at a much faster rate by utilizing state-of-art investigative techniques and employing massive multijurisdictional collaborations, which are directly responsible for today’s indictments and the seizure of nearly 100 guns,” said Col. Patrick J. Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We will continue to work with our partners to combat not only the trafficking of illegal weapons, but to also disrupt the assembly and sale of ghost guns both in New Jersey and across the country.”

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty in a court of law.