New York Drug Enforcement Task Force and NY Attorney General Take Down Ghost Gun Trafficking Ring
Joint Investigation by AG’s Organized Crime Task Force, DEA, NYPD, and NYSP Charges Three Individuals with Selling 47 Firearms, Firearm Components, Ammunition, and Accessories
NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James and the DEA New York Division’s Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III today announced a 438-count indictment, charging three individuals from a gun trafficking operation that illegally sold 47 firearms, including ghost guns which were shipped to New York and Pennsylvania from various online retailers before being assembled. The indictment, unsealed in Queens County Supreme Court today, charges Devon Smith-Martin, Fritz Pierre-Louis, and Hakeem Solomon with trafficking numerous ghost guns, weapons without serial numbers or other identifying markers, including assault weapons, machine guns, and semiautomatic pistols. The gun trafficking operation also sold rapid-fire modification devices, silencers, high-capacity magazines, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. In total, the investigation led to the recovery of 57 firearms, 51 of which were ghost guns.
“I will not allow our streets to be flooded with ghost guns, assault rifles, or other weapons of war,” said Attorney General James. “Giving criminals easy access to illegal and untraceable guns is a threat to all New Yorkers and a danger that my office will not tolerate. High-capacity ammunition magazines and rapid-fire modification devices can easily turn firearms into mass-murder machines. I thank our partners in law enforcement for their support and coordination as we work to protect the safety and well-being of all New Yorkers.”
Today’s takedown was the result of a six-month joint investigation between the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the DEA New York Division’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force (NYDETF), which is comprised of agents and officers of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and the New York State Police (NYSP).
“Smith-Martin and his partner’s gunsmith careers ended today,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino. “With immediate resolve and action, law enforcement identified, investigated, and arrested these gun traffickers whose actions endangered public lives. I commend the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force and the New York Attorney General’s Office on their diligent work throughout this investigation.”
“Today’s charges show that some criminals believe they can operate with impunity, in plain sight — the NYPD and our law enforcement partners exist to shatter that notion,” said NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell. “I commend and thank everyone involved in this extremely important joint investigation. And I assure New Yorkers that our combined efforts will remain precisely focused on holding fully accountable anyone who peddles illegal guns on our streets.”
“Through the hard work of all the partners involved in this investigation, we have removed dozens of illegal, dangerous firearms from our streets and taken out a criminal enterprise that had no regard for the potential impact of their actions,” said State Police Acting Superintendent Steven A. Nigrelli. “I commend the Attorney General’s Office and all our partners for their continued dedication to stopping the illegal trafficking of firearms into New York state.”
“I would like to thank New York Attorney General Letitia James, and the members of her Organized Crimes Task Force Bureau for their outstanding work in this investigation,” said Postal Inspector in Charge of the New York Division Daniel B. Brubaker. “Today, collaboration between our law enforcement partners is how crimes get solved and people are kept safe. No truer words can be spoken with the unsealing of today’s indictments. Fritz Pierre Louis, Devon Smith-Martin, and Hakeem Solomon conspired to use the U.S. Mail to obtain “ghost gun” parts. Once received, they manufactured illegal guns and then sold these un-serialized weapons to line their pockets. This type of greed puts people’s lives in jeopardy and fuels the cycle of violence that we are trying to eradicate from our society. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service. Our proud mission is to protect our employees, infrastructure, and customers from criminal attack. Any time the U.S. Mail is used in furtherance of a crime, Postal Inspectors will be there to ensure that criminals are held responsible for their actions.”
The investigation revealed that Devon Smith-Martin and Fritz Pierre-Louis ordered ghost gun components and accessories from out-of-state online firearm retailers and often had them shipped to an address in Pennsylvania. Devon Smith-Martin then trafficked the firearm components and accessories to New York for assembly and sale. As a result of the interstate “Polymer” pipeline trafficking, the investigation was named “Operation Ghost Runner.” The investigation, which led to the recovery of 57 illegal firearms, included hundreds of hours of physical and covert surveillance, court-authorized wiretapping of numerous target phones, and undercover operations.
OCTF and its partners executed search warrants today at Smith-Martin’s residence and Pierre-Louis’s residence, both in Suffolk County as well as Pierre-Louis’ job site in Queens County. Recovered during today’s search warrants were 3 Polymer 80 9mm ghost guns, including 1 equipped with a rapid fire modification device, numerous high-capacity magazines, including ones designed for AR-15 assault rifles, silencers, firearm component parts, including AR-15 and 9mm “lower receivers” and “upper receivers,” threaded barrels, drill kits, Polymer 80 and AR-15 “molds”, assembly tools, pistol jigs, and additional ammunition.
The three defendants were charged with various counts of Criminal Sale of a Firearm, Criminal Sale of a Ghost Gun, Criminal Possession of a Weapon, and Conspiracy for their participation in the illegal gun trafficking operation.
Intercepted communications revealed that Devon Smith-Martin and Fritz Pierre-Louis often discussed how many completed firearms they had available to sell, counting the “tops” and “bottoms” they had on hand. “Tops” were a reference to upper receivers, comprised of the slide and barrel, and “bottoms” were a reference to lower receivers, the frame comprised of the trigger and firing mechanisms. Specialty firearms included AR style rifles as well as the addition of rapid-fire modification devices, often referred to as “switches” which convert a semi-automatic firearm to fully-automatic. Discussions also included adding high-capacity magazines, or “clips”, with some having the capacity to hold 30, 50, or 100 rounds of ammunition.
The investigation resulted in the recovery of the following firearms and ammunition from the defendants:
57 firearms, 51 of which were ghost guns
38 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistols
Nine 5.56-milimmeter semi-automatic AR-15 style assault weapons
Two .40-caliber semi-automatic pistols
One .45 caliber revolver
Eighteen firearms outfitted with rapid fire modification devices, making them fully automatic machine guns
Forty-six high-capacity ammunition feeding devices, including one 100 round drum magazine
Over 800 rounds of ammunition
The 438 count indictment, unsealed today before Queens County Supreme Court Judge Peter F. Vallone Jr. charged the three individuals with multiple crimes, including Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the First, Second, and Third Degrees, Criminal Sale of a Ghost Gun in the Second Degree, Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, Criminal Possession of a Rapid-Fire Modification Device, and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, among other charges. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of 25 years in prison.
Those charged in today’s indictment include:
· Devon Smith-Martin, 26, Suffolk, New York
· Fritz Pierre-Louis, 46, Suffolk, New York
· Hakeem Solomon, 26, Sumter, South Carolina
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
In addition to the listed partners, the Attorney General would like to thank USPIS and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz for their valuable participation and assistance in this investigation.
The investigation was led by members of DEA’s NYDETF Group T-23, under the overall supervision of Special Agent in Charge of the DEA New York Division Frank A. Tarentino III.
The investigation was also worked by OAG OCTF Detectives Brian Fleming and Brad Farrell, under the supervision of Supervising Detective Paul Grzegorski and Deputy Chief Andrew Boss. The Attorney General’s Investigations Division is led by Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes. The case is being prosecuted by OAG OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Jason Navia, under the supervision of Downstate OCTF Deputy Chief Lauren Abinanti with the assistance of OCTF Legal Analyst Christine Cintron. Nicole Keary is the Deputy Attorney General in Charge of OCTF. The Criminal Justice Division is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado. Both the Investigations Division and the Division for Criminal Justice are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.