Feds arrest 9, shut down ‘pipeline of illegal guns’ flowing from metro Atlanta to New York City

ATLANTA — Investigators in New York say they have shut down a “pipeline of illegal guns” running between New York City and Georgia.

The US Attorney’s Office from the Southern District of New York announced Wednesday morning the arrest of nine people in connection to gun trafficking.

Those arrested include James Thomas, Duvaughn Wilson, Courtney Schloss, Ken Alexander, Argam Taj, Samuel Taj, Christopher Machado, Harlie Ramos and Jamel Thomas.

“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 Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss.

Investigators said between August 2020 and April 2021, Wilson was used as a purchaser to buy at least 87 guns across metro Atlanta that were then illegally resold using cash, wire services and banking apps.

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“When communicating about the firearms, the defendants used coded language, referring to the weapons as “TVs,” “knocks,” and “situations.” In some instances, the defendants referred to the caliber or model of a firearm by referencing the jersey numbers of famous athletes,” a news release from the U.S. Attorney said.

Once purchased, Wilson would then transfer the guns to Thomas, Schloss and others for resale in New York, mainly using buses to transport the weapons.

“In many instances, the guns were transferred to members of the Brooklyn-based “Blixky Gang” – a group composed primarily of aspiring rappers,” the news release said.

Some of the guns ended up appearing in music videos made by the Blixky Gang, one of whom was shot in Atlanta, according to a federal complaint.

In some cases, investigators were able to intercept the guns. Authorities said they were able to track some of the trafficked guns to violent crimes in New York City.

“On at least two occasions, in the wake of violent crimes, the NYPD seized firearms trafficked to New York as part of this scheme.  As alleged, in February 2021, the NYPD seized a gun that Wilson had bought after a fleeing suspect discharged it at responding officers in the Bronx.  And in April 2021, following a shooting in the Bronx, the NYPD seized another pistol purchased by Wilson,” the news release said.

The suspects are facing charges that include conspiracy to commit gun trafficking, illegal transportation or receipt in state of residency of firearm purchased or acquired outside of state of residency and interstate travel with intent to engage in gun trafficking.

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