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U.S. prosecutors shut gun trafficking ring

/ Source: The Associated Press

A gun trafficking ring in which Ohio college students acted as phony buyers for weapons intended for a New Jersey street gang has been broken up as part of a national crackdown on gun crime, federal prosecutors say.

Authorities said charges were brought against alleged New Jersey gang members, an Ohio gun dealer and at least eight other people in Ohio.

Details about the case were to be announced later Thursday by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has been pushing a crackdown on gun crime known as the “Safe Neighborhoods” project. Prosecutors from Ohio and New Jersey were to join Ashcroft at a news conference about the case.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said the prosecution marked the first in which charges have been brought in one state against a licensed gun dealer in another state for operating an alleged gun trafficking conspiracy.

'Straw buyers'
According to prosecutors, students or former students at Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio, acted as “straw buyers” to purchase about 200 handguns from the Hole in the Wall store.

Of those, about 76 allegedly were funneled to a street gang in East Orange, N.J., known as the Double ii Bloods. Fifteen of the guns have been recovered, all of them used in various crimes.

The indictment says the Ohio store owner, James Dillard, made two large sales of 16 guns and 15 guns, respectively, on April 22, 2002, to two different “straw buyers.” He had made a sale of 25 guns to one of the same purchasers five days earlier, the indictment charges.

Dillard is charged along with Quadree Smith, alleged leader of the New Jersey gang, with conspiracy to deal firearms without a license. Dillard has also been charged with making unlawful gun sales.

Two other alleged gang members are charged in the case in New Jersey along with eight phony buyers in Ohio, authorities said.