gins Jr., 21, and Shaireese Liles, 21, all of Philadelphia, purchased multiple firearms between July and August on behalf of a gun trafficking network led by Terrence Barker, 19, of Philadelphia, Mikal Scott, 18, of the 7900 block of Rolling Green Road, Cheltenham, and a 17-year-old Norristown male.
McCrary purchased 35 firearms, Huggins purchased five firearms and Liles purchased four firearms via straw purchases at federally licensed gun dealers, allegedly on behalf of the gun trafficking organization. The purchases were made at seven federally licensed firearm dealers in Montgomery, Bucks and Philadelphia counties, Steele said.
A straw purchase occurs when a person with a clean background purchases firearms on behalf of another person to conceal the true ownership of the firearm. Those who are unable to legally purchase firearms include convicted felons, domestic violence offenders, juveniles and mentally ill individuals.
Ashon Jared Pearson, 23, of the 1400 block of Arch Street, Norristown, Jamil Brown, 19, of Philadelphia, John McDonald, 21, of Philadelphia, and Clarence Codada, 18, of Philadelphia, also were charged with allegedly participating in the gun trafficking network. Four other juvenile males who ranged in age from 14 to 17 also face charges.
Detectives are in the process of locating McDonald and Scott, officials said. Anyone with information about their whereabouts should call the Montgomery County Detective Bureau at 610-278-3368 or the Norristown Police Department at 610-270-0977.
“This gun trafficking organization included juveniles as active members. The juveniles were not only armed by this organization but were an integral part of the overall operation,” detectives wrote in the arrest affidavit.
The organization had multiple members performing a variety of roles, including purchasing and marketing or sales of the firearms.
“Oftentimes, some of the members of the gun trafficking organization accompanied the straw purchasers to the gun stores and helped choose the weapons,” Steele said.
“After the straw purchasers filled out the federal and state paperwork and lied on it, vowing that this gun was for their own use, they walk out of the gun store, they hand over the gun or guns to other members of the gun trafficking organization who immediately sold it, arming the people the law says cannot have a gun,” Steele added..
The charges lodged against all or some of the alleged participants include corrupt organizations, conspiracy, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and illegal sale or transfer of firearms. Bail was set for those charged and their preliminary hearings are pending.
“We may never know the true extent of the damage from these 44 illegal guns since guns obtained using a straw purchaser are typically immediately resold to people who can’t legally buy a gun for themselves. Then after an illegal firearm is used in a crime, it’s resold to other felons and the damage grows. It’s a domino effect,” Steele said.
Steele revealed only six of the 44 firearms have been recovered, including one that was linked to a shooting incident in Cheltenham and another seized during a traffic stop of a juvenile in Abington.
Thirty-eight of the guns remain on the streets.
“That’s the danger of a straw purchase. We may never know the true extent of the damage that these defendants and the juveniles have done and the danger that they have created in our communities,” Steele said.
Steele urged anyone who may have knowledge about the whereabouts of the guns to contact authorities.
The investigation began on Aug. 9, when county detectives were routinely reviewing paperwork related to multiple gun purchases by individuals and noticed McCrary’s alleged purchases of a large number of guns from licensed dealers, according to court papers.
The following day, on Aug. 10, Norristown police responded to a shooting incident involving a 17-yearold male and a search of the residence where the shooting occurred uncovered two gun boxes that had been purchased on the day of the shooting by McCrary, who did not live at the residence. Neither gun had been reported stolen, indicating a possible straw purchase, authorities alleged.
Investigators subsequently learned that McCrary sometimes visited more than one gun store in a day and bought multiple firearms at the same time, according to court documents.
The investigation used surveillance, cellphone and social media analysis, search warrants and reviews of federal firearms forms to uncover the participants in the organization, according to court papers.
The Electronic Record of Sale system, part of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General’s Track and Trace Initiative, was a key tool used by investigators to track the organization’s illegal firearms purchases. Attorney General Josh Shapiro joined Steele at the news conference.
“Our job is obviously not over. This is just one step in the process. We should keep expanding the use of electronic records and double down on this kind of targeted, datadriven and collaborative law enforcement work to prevent senseless shootings and violence here in Norristown and everywhere throughout southeastern Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said.
Norristown Police Chief Mark Talbot and Michael J. Driscoll, special agent in charge of FBI Philadelphia, also attended the news briefing.
“We know too well that gun violence is a scourge of our community. It devastates our neighborhoods and families. Shutting down these straw purchases is vital to reducing
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The investigation was led by the Montgomery County Detective Bureau’s Violent Crime Unit and the Norristown Police Department.
The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General’s Gun Violence Task Force, the FBI’s Bucks and Montgomery County Safe Streets Task Force, U.S. Marshals, Cheltenham, Abington, Philadelphia, Warminster and Bensalem police departments, Pennsylvania State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisted with the investigation.
The case will be prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Kathleen McLaughlin, captain of the district attorney’s firearms unit.
“Our job is obviously not over. This is just one step in the process. We should keep expanding the use of electronic records and double down on this kind of targeted, data-driven and collaborative law enforcement work to prevent senseless shootings and violence here in Norristown and everywhere throughout southeastern Pennsylvania.” — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro
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