By Mark Morales
NEW YORK, NY (Newsource) — Four gun traffickers have been charged with illegally selling over 50 firearms in Brooklyn, marking the first prosecution in New York state under a bipartisan gun safety law enacted last June, law enforcement officials announced at a news conference Wednesday.
Known as the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the federal law includes a gun trafficking provision that creates a standalone firearm trafficking conspiracy offense, which New York prosecutors used to charge the gun traffickers. The act also provides increased sentences of up to 15 years in prison for such crimes.
“Prosecutions of gun trafficking prior to the enactment of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act relied on statutes concerning unlicensed sale, transport, and delivery of firearms, and false statements made to firearms dealers. By using the new law in the charges today, we’re able to streamline those prosecutions by charging firearms trafficking conspiracy as a standalone federal crime,” US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said.
“As the first prosecution to utilize this legislation in New York and one of the first in the country, we are demonstrating that we are prepared to use all the tools at our disposal, new and old, to combat gun violence,” Peace said.
A seven-count indictment was unsealed in court, charging David Mccann, Tajhai Jones, Raymond Minaya, and Calvin Tabron with conspiring to traffic over 50 illegal firearms, Peace said.
Prosecutors allege there were multiple illegal firearm purchases between January 2022 and August 2022, with the guns being sold during the day from vehicles in and around housing projects in Brooklyn.
Two members of the gun trafficking operation allegedly got the firearms in Virginia and transported them to New York to be sold in Brooklyn, prosecutors said in a news release. Some of the firearms allegedly had defaced serial numbers and others were made from ghost gun kits, the release states.
The group allegedly sold the guns to an undercover New York Police Department officer who recorded many of the transactions. The undercover officer allegedly told the group he was a drug dealer and needed the guns, with the intent to resell some of the weapons, prosecutors said.
The guns recovered were traced back to several shootings in Brooklyn, prosecutors said, including one incident where eight people were struck by gunfire at a family celebration in Brooklyn in April 2022.
Mccann, Jones, Minaya and Tabron were all arrested Wednesday morning, Peace said.
Mccann and Minaya are also charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine base. Mccann is also charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl, prosecutors said.
Mccann and Minaya are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon.
Jones and Tabron are scheduled to be arraigned in Virginia. They will have their detention hearings on Friday.
Minaya’s attorney declined to comment. Mccann’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Tabron is represented by Federal Public Defenders, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Jones will have an attorney appointed to him by Criminal Justice Act, according to an EDNY spokesperson.
This latest arrest marks one of the first instances where the law was used.
Last September, a 25-year-old US citizen living in Mexico was charged in connection with trafficking firearms from Texas into Mexico. He was believed to have been the first person charged with part of the Safer Communities Act known as the Stop Illegal Trafficking In Firearms Act, according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office from the Southern District of Texas.
The 25-year-old alleged trafficker was caught driving south on Interstate 35 heading to the port in Laredo, Texas, when he was caught with 17 guns in his car, according to Justice Department officials. In all, he bought 231 firearms, investigators said.
The bipartisan act, signed by President Biden in June 2022, was the first major federal gun safety legislation in decades and a significant bipartisan breakthrough on one of the most contentious policy issues in Washington.
The legislation came together in the aftermath of mass shootings at an Uvalde, Texas, elementary school and a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
On Wednesday, Peace said the new law makes it easier to prosecute interstate gun trafficking cases.
“Now we can charge the firearm trafficking itself without the obligation to show that someone was in the business of selling firearms and that’s a significant difference in what proof and evidence we would have to put forward,” Peace said, noting that the penalty has also increased. “Under the other statutes, the maximum penalties would likely be five or ten years. Under this Act, they’ll be facing up to 15 years.”
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell also spoke about the flood of illegal weapons from nearby states with more relaxed firearm regulations, commonly known as the “Iron Pipeline,” highlighting how police officers were killed in the line of duty with illegal guns from other cities.
In December 2014, NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot and killed as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn, Sewell said. The gun was bought in a Georgia pawn shop before making its way to New York City, according to Sewell.
A year later, Officer Brian Moore was shot and killed in Queens with a firearm that was stolen from a pawn shop in Georgia, Sewell said.
Officers Wilber Mora and Jason Rivera were shot and killed last year while responding to a domestic incident with a gun that was stolen from Baltimore in 2017.
“Every day, NYPD officers, with our partners, will continue to interdict, interrupt, investigate and hold criminals accountable,” Sewell said. “New Yorkers in every neighborhood should be free from fear and tragedy related to gun violence.”