Lawrence man charged in firearms trafficking probe
A Lawrence man has been charged as part of a nearly two-year NYPD undercover probe into a loosely knit group that allegedly trafficked firearms from Ohio and Baltimore into the Bronx, officials said Thursday.
Charged with criminal sale of a firearm in the second degree and related charges was Jose Martinez, 35, of 270 Pearl St. in Lawrence, an NYPD spokesman said. He was charged with the sale of an assault rifle last May to an undercover detective, court records show.
Martinez was one of 14 men and women charged in the case, which investigators said involved undercover officers purchasing 55 firearms, including fully loaded assault rifles such as the AR-15 and AK-47, intended for distribution in the area of the South Bronx, police said.
Dubbed "Ghost Buster" because the suspected lead defendant, Reinaldo Romero, 28, of Sagamore Road, Bronx, went by the nickname "Caspa," the probe found that weapons were shipped from Ohio and later Baltimore, said Det. Charles Lennon of the Brooklyn firearms investigation unit. Some of the assault rifles went for as much as $1,400, he said.
"The guns allegedly were purchased from Reinaldo Romero, who would contact the detective by telephone or text message whenever he had guns to sell," said Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson in a statement Thursday.
Lennon said that the 10 defendants weren't part of an organized crew but resembled a group of independent entrepreneurs who came together at various times to try to sell the weapons. If the firearms hadn't been confiscated in the investigation they would have likely wound up on the streets of the Bronx, Lennon said.
The haul of 55 firearms represents one of the larger seizure of weapons in recent years, police said.
Arraignment information wasn't available late Thursday from prosecutors.