Four gun dealers have been charged with the illegal sale of more than 50 firearms in Brooklyn, marking the first prosecution in New York state under a bipartisan gun safety law enacted last June, law enforcement officials said at a news conference Wednesday.
The federal statute known as the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes an arms trafficking provision that creates a distinct arms trafficking conspiracy offense with which New York prosecutors have charged the arms dealers. The law also provides for increased penalties of up to 15 years in prison for such crimes.
“Prosecutions of the gun trade prior to the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act relied on laws regarding the unlicensed sale, transportation and supply of firearms and misrepresentations to firearms dealers. By using the new law in the indictments today, we are able to streamline those prosecutions by indicting the arms trafficking conspiracy as a separate federal crime,” said US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace.
“As the first prosecutor’s office to adopt this legislation in New York, and one of the first in the country, we are demonstrating that we are willing 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 alleging David McCann, Tajhai Jones, Raymond Minaya and Calvin Tabron of conspiring to traffic in more than 50 illegal firearms, Peace said.
Prosecutors allege that several illegal firearm purchases took place between January 2022 and August 2022, with the guns being sold from vehicles in and around Brooklyn housing projects during the day.
Two members of the arms trafficking operation allegedly obtained the firearms in Virginia and transported them to New York to sell them in Brooklyn, prosecutors said in a press release. Some of the firearms reportedly had serial numbers defaced and others were made from ghost gun kits, the publication said.
The group allegedly sold the guns to an undercover New York City 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 intent to resell some of the guns, prosecutors said.
The recovered guns were traced to multiple shootings in Brooklyn, prosecutors said, including an incident in which eight people were hit 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 also faces charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl, prosecutors said.
McCann and Minaya are scheduled to be charged on Wednesday afternoon.
Jones and Tabron are scheduled to face charges in Virginia. They will have their detention hearing 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. According to an EDNY spokesman, the Criminal Justice Act will appoint an attorney for Jones.
This latest arrest is one of the first cases in which the law was used.
Last September, a 25-year-old US citizen residing in Mexico was charged in connection with trafficking firearms from Texas to Mexico. According to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Texas, he is said to have been the first person to be charged under a portion of the Safer Communities Act known as the Stop Illegal Trafficking In Firearms Act.
According to Justice Department officials, the 25-year-old suspected trafficker was caught driving south on Interstate 35 to the port in Laredo, Texas, when he was caught with 17 guns in his car. In all, he bought 231 firearms, investigators said.
The bipartisan law, signed into law by President Biden in June 2022, was the first major federal gun safety law in decades and a significant bipartisan breakthrough on one of Washington’s most contentious political issues.
The legislation came after mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a convenience store in Buffalo, New York, in a mostly black neighborhood.
On Wednesday, Peace said the new law would make it easier to prosecute interstate arms trafficking cases.
“Now we can prosecute the arms trade itself without having to prove anyone was in the business of selling firearms, and that makes a significant difference in terms of what evidence and evidence we would have to present,” Peace said, noting, that this was the case penalty increased. “Under the other laws, the maximum sentences would probably be five or ten years. According to this law, they face up to 15 years.”
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell also spoke about the flood of illegal guns from nearby states with relaxed gun regulations, commonly known as the “Iron Pipeline,” and highlighted how police officers on duty were killed with illegal guns from other cities.
In December 2014, NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot dead while they were in their squad car in Brooklyn, Sewell said. The gun was purchased at a Georgia pawn shop before making it to New York City, according to Sewell.
A year later, Officer Brian Moore was shot dead in Queens with a firearm stolen from a Georgia pawn shop, Sewell said.
Officers Wilber Mora and Jason Rivera were shot dead last year while responding to a domestic incident involving a gun stolen from Baltimore in 2017.
“Every day, NYPD officials, with our partners, continue to interdict, disrupt, investigate and hold criminals accountable,” Sewell said. “New Yorkers in every neighborhood should be free from the fear and tragedy surrounding gun violence.”