New Jersey law enforcement officials announced Wednesday the indictments of seven men from two states involved in what police said was scheme to sell guns illegally in Camden.
Two defendants from Ohio and five from New Jersey were charged with racketeering, which could carry a 20-year prison sentence.
During a press conference at Camden County Police headquarters, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said breaking up the illegal gun ring was a victory for a city that has seen its violent crime rates drop in recent years, but also understands the toll that gun crime can take on a community.
“The residents of this city are all too familiar with the misery that these deadly weapons can inflict when put in the hands of gang members, drug dealers, and other violent criminals,” Grewal said.
According to officials, the alleged ringleader of the scheme was Chucky Scott, a 25-year-old resident of Columbus, Ohio.
Scott picked out guns being sold legally in Ohio gun stores and online, officials said, and instructed his associate Anthony Hammond, also from Columbus, to buy them. (Grewal noted that it is much easier to buy a gun in Ohio than it is in New Jersey, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the U.S.)
The two men then drove the guns to Camden, where five other men — including two of Scott’s cousins — sold the guns on the street after adding a “tax” so the group could turn a profit. The defendants even hawked some of the guns, initially purchased legally, in their original packaging.
Investigators say Hammond bought more than 30 guns to resell illegally in Camden, but police seized only 17 of those firearms, which included two AK-47s and an AR-15 assault rifle. The rest were handguns, some of which came with large-capacity magazines.
“Today these defendants are done reaping profits at the expense of the safety and security of the good people who make their homes here in Camden,” said Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice in the attorney general’s office. “Now these defendants will face justice for their actions.”
Officials discovered that some of the seized guns had been used in other crimes, but did not specify details.
Other agencies involved in the investigation included the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Agency; New Jersey State Police; the Camden County Police Department; and West Virginia State Police.
During the press conference, Grewal was asked if police were planning to make any more arrests in the case.
“We do anticipate further —” Grewal said, before stopping himself. “The investigation is ongoing. Let’s put it that way.”