NEWARK, N.J. –The Department of Justice today announced it charged more than 14,200 defendants with firearms-related crimes during Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, despite the challenges of COVID 19 and its impact on the criminal justice process. Of those cases, 342 have been brought by the District of New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
These cases have been a Department priority since November 2019 when Attorney General William P. Barr announced his commitment to investigating, prosecuting, and combatting gun crimes as an important part of the Department’s anti-violent crime strategy. These firearms-related charges are the result of the critical law enforcement partnership between United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, led by Acting Director Regina Lombardo, who has made firearms-related investigations a priority.
“The number one priority of government is to keep its citizens safe,” Attorney General Barr said. “By preventing firearms from falling into the hands of individuals who are prohibited from having them, we can stop violent crime before it happens. Violating federal firearms laws is a serious crime and offenders face serious consequences. The Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals, who illegally buy, sell, use, or possess firearms. Reducing gun violence requires a coordinated effort, and we could not have charged more than 14,000 individuals with firearms-related crimes without the hard work of the dedicated law enforcement professionals at the ATF, our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, and especially all of our state and local law enforcement partners.”
“When I became U.S. Attorney more than two years ago, I emphasized that our most important job is protecting the public,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “Project Guardian is one of the best strategies we have to accomplish that mission. By coordinating with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we have pursued and prosecuted those who violate our firearms laws, and helped to reduce gun violence in our state.”
“Protecting the public from violent crime involving firearms is at the core of ATF’s mission,” ATF Acting Director Regina Lombardo said. “Every day the men and women of ATF pursue and investigate those who use firearms to commit violent crimes in our communities, many of whom are prohibited from possessing firearms from previous convictions. ATF, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the nation, is committed to bringing these offenders to justice for their egregious and violent criminal acts.”
The Department of Justice announced its commitment to decreasing gun violence and enforcing federal firearms laws in an effort to make the communities in America safer through Project Guardian. As part of this strategy, Project Guardian focuses on close coordination with all law enforcement partners to investigate, prosecute and prevent gun crimes, including the illegal acquisition or attempted acquisition, possession, use, and trafficking of firearms.
Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm if you fall into one of nine prohibited categories including being a felon, illegal alien, or unlawful user of a controlled substance. Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime. It is also illegal to purchase – or even to attempt to illegally purchase – firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others. Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to lawfully purchase a firearm, is also a federal offense. The Department is committed to prosecuting these firearms offenses as well as using all modern technologies available to law enforcement such as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN, to promote gun crime intelligence.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey has continued its long-standing partnerships with federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies to implement Project Guardian and has renewed its commitment to prosecute firearms offenses. For example:
On May 6, 2020, Jonathan Brown, 26, of Covington, Georgia, was arrested for trafficking multiple firearms from Georgia to Jersey City, New Jersey, which were subsequently used in acts of violence. Brown was charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit the unlicensed sale of firearms. Brown led a scheme to purchase firearms in or around Georgia and traffic those firearms to individuals in Jersey City. Brown, who is barred from purchasing firearms himself due to multiple prior felony convictions, used straw purchasers in Georgia to obtain the firearms so that Brown could sell those firearms to others. On multiple occasions, Brown brought firearms from Georgia to New Jersey for sale. Within months of Brown’s trips to Jersey City, law enforcement arrested numerous individuals in Jersey City in possession of firearms purchased by Brown’s straw purchasers. At least one of the weapons trafficked by Brown was later used in the shooting of another person in Jersey City. At least one of the individuals in possession of one of Brown’s guns had a prior felony conviction, and was therefore barred from possessing a firearm. To date, law enforcement has recovered seven firearms allegedly trafficked by Brown in Jersey City.
On May 29, 2020, a New Jersey man with a prior felony conviction was charged with unlawfully possessing dozens of firearms, including handguns, rifles, a silencer, ammunition, and high-capacity magazines. Darick Nollett, 30, of Heislerville, New Jersey, was charged by criminal complaint with one count of unlawfully possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, and one count of knowingly receiving and possessing a firearm that was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. Law enforcement officers executing a court-authorized search warrant of Nollett’s residence recovered the following, in addition to a firearm silencer:
• A Remington 710 .270 caliber rifle;
• A Savage 93R17 .17 caliber rifle;
• An Aero Precision DTOM 15 rifle;
• A CMMG Inc. MK4 rifle;
• A Del-Ton DTI-15 rifle;
• An Aero Precision DTOM 15 rifle;
• A Keltec rifle;
• A Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver;
• A Ruger LCP .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol;
• A Colt Python .357 caliber revolver;
• A Taurus PT738 .380 caliber handgun;
• A Sig Sauer P226 .22 caliber handgun;
• A Glock 20 10mm handgun;
• A Heckler & Koch VP9 tactical pistol;
• A Smith & Wesson M&P40 .40 caliber handgun;
• A Springfield XD-40 .40 caliber handgun;
• A Springfield XD-45 .45 caliber handgun;
• A Taurus PT111 G2 9mm handgun;
• A Browning BPS 12 gauge shotgun;
• A Winchester Model 120 12 gauge shotgun;
• A Hatsan Arms Escort PS Magnum 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun;
• A Remington 870 20 gauge shotgun;
• A Mossberg 500E .410 gauge shotgun;
• A Rossi 520 20 gauge shotgun;
• A New England Firearms Pardner SBI 12 gauge shotgun;
• A Fabrica Aguirre y Aranzabal JC Higgins Model 100 12 gauge shotgun;
• A Savage Model 720 12 gauge shotgun;
• A Springfield Armory Model 1896 rifle;
• A Ruger Model 10-22 .22 caliber rifle;
• A Remington 7615 Police .223 caliber rifle;
• A Winchester Model 1864 30 30 rifle; and
• A Mossberg 500 12 gauge shotgun;
Law enforcement officers also recovered an assembled AR-15 style rifle with scope that did not bear a serial number, along with unassembled parts for another AR-15 style rifle.
On June 1, 2020, Ibraaheem Islam, a/k/a “Ish,” 32, was charged by superseding complaint with three counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (Counts One through Three), one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Count Four), and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (Count Five). Those charges stemmed from Islam’s involvement in narcotics trafficking activity on a regular basis in the vicinity of Chadwick Avenue, Newark. Law enforcement obtained warrants to search two vehicles and one residence associated with Islam. On May 30, 2020, law enforcement recovered a 5.7×28 millimeter caliber FN Herstal model “FN Five-Seven” pistol, loaded with 17 rounds of ammunition, 194 vials containing suspected cocaine base, and 64 glassine envelopes containing suspected heroin.
On July 20, 2020, Tevin Browning, 29, of Newark, was charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit carjacking, one count of attempted carjacking, one count of discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, and one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon following his alleged involvement in a July 9, 2020 attempted carjacking in Jersey City during which a victim was shot in the abdomen. Specifically, at approximately 5:00 p.m. on July 9, 2020, a carjacking occurred in the area of Tonnelle and Broadway avenues in Jersey City. Browning and an armed conspirator attempted to forcibly enter an Acura MDX. As the passenger entered the Acura, Browning and his conspirator forcibly attempted to enter the vehicle. Browning attempted to enter the rear right passenger side of the Acura, and punched the passenger in the head. At that point, the driver quickly attempted to drive away from the area. As the driver drove away, the gunman attempted to enter the front passenger side of the Acura and held onto the Acura. After a short distance, the gunman shot the driver in the abdomen, and then fell off the Acura as its driver was able to escape. Moments later, a Dodge Challenger arrived at the scene and picked up the gunman before fleeing the area. Police officers found a spent .45 caliber shell casing stamped “Blazer .45 Auto” in the area where the gunman had fallen to the ground. A lawful search warrant of the Challenger produced a .45 caliber Hi-Point Model JHP semiautomatic handgun, bearing serial number 406099, which was loaded with four rounds of ammunition. Two of the rounds were stamped “Blazer .45 Auto” on the shell casing.
On Oct. 7, 2020, Benjamin Daye, 34, admitted to robbing a Camden barbershop at gunpoint on November 23, 2019. Upon entering the barbershop, Daye grabbed a juvenile customer, pointed a loaded gun at the customer’s head, and demanded cash and belongings from employees and customers. Daye fled and was apprehended shortly thereafter next to a bag containing the handgun and the stolen items.
These are just a few examples of the cases brought in the District of New Jersey under Project Guardian. Between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020, this office charged 342 individuals with gun offenses. Of those individuals, 252 were prior convicted felons who were prohibited from possessing firearms and almost 90 possessed firearms in furtherance of, or in relation to, drug trafficking offenses or crimes of violence, such as carjackings and shootings.
The charges and allegations pending against all defendants are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
For more information on the lawful purchasing of firearms, please see: https://www.atf.gov/qa-category/atf-form-4473.