A gun pipeline where traffickers flooded New York City with firearms purchased in Georgia has been shut down and nine people are facing federal charges in connection with reselling the guns, some of which appeared in music videos and were used to shoot at police officers, authorities said Wednesday.
Those arrested include James Thomas, Duvaughn Wilson, Courtney Schloss, Ken Alexander, Argam Taj and Jamel Thomas, the Justice Department said. Three other suspects – Samuel Taj, Christopher Machado and Harlie Ramos — are still being sought.
“These arrests should … send a message to anyone who is thinking about illegally selling guns to New Yorkers or illegally bringing guns to New York: We and our law enforcement partners are watching. And we will prosecute gun traffickers to the fullest extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss.
The Justice Department alleges Wilson was used as a straw buyer to purchase guns from at least August 2020 to April. Straw buyers are often used to circumvent legal restrictions, such as laws that prohibit those with criminal records from obtaining weapons.
Wilson, a Georgia resident, purchased at least 87 firearms in the state from six sellers for the other defendants who then illegally resold the weapons.
He would be given specific firearms to buy and would pay for the weapons with cash, through mobile banking apps and wire payments, federal prosecutors said. He would then give the purchased weapons to James Thomas, Schloss and others, who sold the guns in Georgia and took some of them to New York City by bus, the DOJ said.
John DeVito, the special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said the scheme “flooded” New York City streets with illegal firearms.
“In many instances, the guns were transferred to members of the Brooklyn-based ‘Blixky Gang’ – a group composed primarily of aspiring rappers,” the Justice Department said. “Some of these guns later appeared in music videos filmed by members of the Blixky Gang.”
In the videos, some members of the gang displayed the weapons and stacks of cash, authorities said. In the course of the alleged trafficking scheme, some weapons shipments were intercepted.
In November 2020, South Carolina authorities stopped a bus and seized five firearms, along with pistol magazines, a high-capacity .40 caliber magazine and a nine-millimeter drum magazine – all of which were allegedly being transported by the suspects in a single backpack.
Other firearms allegedly purchased by Wilson were seized by the New York Police Department after being used in violent crimes. One gun he bought was used in February to shoot at police officers in the Bronx. In April, one pistol was seized after it was used in another shooting.
That weapon was later traced to Wilson.
A total of 18 firearms purchased by Wilson have been recovered from several jurisdictions. Each of the suspects face up to 10 years in prison. Wilson, James Thomas and Schloss also face an additional 10 years for interstate travel with intent to engage in gun trafficking.