The Phoenix

Authoritie­s dismantle gun traffickin­g network

Detectives alleged the organizati­on used straw purchase schemes in eight counties

- By Carl Hessler Jr.

NORRISTOWN >> State and local authoritie­s dismantled a multi-county gun traffickin­g organizati­on that illegally obtained and sold nearly 100 firearms using straw purchase schemes and charges are pending against eight Philadelph­ia residents allegedly linked to the network.

“Gun traffickin­g is a serious crime that endangers our communitie­s since these illegal firearms are sold on to people who can’t buy their own guns. Law enforcemen­t is committed to fighting these illegal gun sales and gun traffickin­g organizati­ons whose sole purpose is to make money by arming criminals,” Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said at a Wednesday news conference.

Members of the network allegedly purchased 94 firearms and attempted to purchase an additional 23 firearms in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Lehigh, Philadelph­ia, Columbia, Northampto­n and York counties.

Of the 94 illegally purchased guns, only 29 have been recovered by law enforcemen­t.

“That leaves 65 in the wind. We don’t where they are and that’s one of the dangers of straw purchasing,” Steele said.

Some of the firearms were recovered during investigat­ions of other crimes including in Pittsburgh and Philadelph­ia and during an October 2021 gunpoint robbery in Wolcott, Conn., according to court documents.

“We are taking this very, very seriously and getting those other 65 guns back is a priority to us,” Steele said. “And I’m afraid and fear they’re going to be involved in other crimes.”

The illegal purchases were made using straw purchase schemes. A straw purchase occurs when someone who is legally allowed to purchase a firearm purchases one and then gives it illegally to someone who is not permitted to purchase that firearm.

Larry B. Williams, 40, of the 3600 block of Jasper Street, was identified as the alleged leader of the organizati­on.

“Williams couldn’t buy a firearm because of some of his past indiscreti­ons so he was prohibited from buying, owning or possessing (firearms) so he recruited other defendants who lived in Philadelph­ia to buy firearms,” Steele alleged. “The investigat­ion found that oftentimes Williams would accompany these straw purchasers to gun stores and help choose the weapons or he directed the purchases from afar using text or phone conversati­ons.”

Seven others were charged with illegally purchasing firearms or attempting to purchase them for Williams and his organizati­on, according to court documents.

Robert Otis Cooper III, 23, of the 1300 block of Colwyn Street, allegedly purchased 41 firearms and attempted to purchase eight others for the organizati­on in less than two months.

Ziair Stenson, 26, of the 400 block of West Wellens Street, allegedly purchased 36 firearms and attempted to purchase an additional seven for the network, while Malik Keyon RowellJern­igan, 24, of the 1900 block of East Pacific Street, allegedly purchased eight firearms and attempted to purchase three others.

Daynell M. Jones, 40, of the 3600 block of Jasper Street, Zakayla S. Deshields, 22, of the 4100 block of West Godfrey Avenue, and Kevin Logan, 24, of the 5200 block of North American Street, each allegedly purchased three firearms for the network, according to authoritie­s.

Shadiid S. Smalley, 23, of the 4600 block of Kraydor Street, allegedly attempted to buy five firearms for the organizati­on.

The alleged members of the organizati­on are facing various charges, including corrupt organizati­ons, illegal purchase, sale or transfer of firearms, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, criminal use of communicat­ion facilities and making materially false statements. They face March 7 preliminar­y hearings on the charges before District Court Judge Cathleen Kelly Rebar in Lower Providence.

Those joining Steele at the news conference included Acting Pennsylvan­ia Attorney General Michelle Henry, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub, Abington Township Police Chief Patrick Molloy and representa­tives of the Pennsylvan­ia State Police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Philadelph­ia Field Division.

“This gun traffickin­g organizati­on was significan­t and it was dangerous. Far too frequently these weapons end up in the hands of dangerous individual­s to be used to commit crimes and fuel gun violence in our communitie­s,” Henry

Alleged participan­ts in a multi-county gun-traffickin­g organizati­on. said. “I am grateful for the by the defendants through gun show,” Steele added, hard work of all the agencies the state’s Electronic Record alleging Cooper, at one who partnered in this of Sale (EROS) system gun show, purchased 13 investigat­ion. Together, we and through hard copies guns over two days from will continue to fight hard of ATF and Pennsylvan­ia seven different federally to stop the traffickin­g of State Police forms at licensed firearms dealers. firearms in our state and gun stores. The following law enforcemen­t make Pennsylvan­ia safer Detectives used surveillan­ce, organizati­ons for all who live here.” interviews, informatio­n participat­ed in this investigat­ion:

Weintraub emphasized from law enforcemen­t the Office of Attorney the violence associated agencies, call detail General’s Gun Violence with illegal firearms. records and cellphone Task Force; Montgomery

“After these guns were downloads, social media County Detective purchased illegally, many analysis, records of cash Bureau’s Violent Crime were then used by criminals transfers, inspection of Unit; Bucks County District to commit violent forms used in purchasing Attorney’s Drug crimes,” Weintraub said. firearms and other methods Strike Force; U.S. Department “Working together, our of investigat­ion. Collaborat­ion of Justice, Bureau goal is to deter straw purchases between law of Alcohol, Tobacco, by vigorously investigat­ing enforcemen­t agencies and Firearms and Explosives; each one and increased data sharing Pennsylvan­ia State Police; holding the gun purchasers through initiative­s like Pennsylvan­ia Board and end users criminally Track and Trace aided in of Probation and Parole; accountabl­e. This requires uncovering the scale of the FBI Bucks Montgomery relentless commitment widespread operation. Safe Streets Task Force; by law enforcemen­t. Steele said about half U.S. Marshal’s Violent We will not rest. More to of the 94 illegal gun purchases Crimes Fugitive Task come.” and 23 attempted Force; New York State Police

In June 2022, the Montgomery purchases were completed and multiple police County Detective at gun shows statewide department­s including Bureau initiated an investigat­ion including at the Greater Abington Township Police, into illegal activities Philadelph­ia Expo Center Philadelph­ia Police, associated with the in Oaks. Middletown Township gun traffickin­g organizati­on. “Typically these defendants Police, Wolcott, Conn., Law enforcemen­t began would purchase Police, Darby Police, New following the multiple multiple firearms from different York City Police and the purchases of firearms dealers at the same Pittsburgh Police.


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