Billed as Brooklyn’s biggest ever gun smuggling bust, nearly two dozen people — mostly from Virginia — have been rounded up and arrested on charges they brought over 200 high-caliber weapons of all sorts into the city, authorities said Wednesday.
The suspects were taken into custody as part of “Operation Tidal Wave,” a joint operation conducted by the NYPD and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office — the latest effort to plug the “iron pipeline,” the name for the conduit of guns smuggled from southern states to New York City.
“In this unique case, we charged more defendants and recovered more firearms than in any other case in Brooklyn’s history,” said borough Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.
At a Brooklyn news conference Wednesday, Gonzalez and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill displayed an assortment of assault rifles, Tommy guns and high powered handguns like .45-calibers, all purchased by a single undercover investigator from two groups of traffickers operating in Virginia, according investigators.
Many of the weapon sales took place at various locations in the Bedford-Stuyvesant, Fort Greene, Sunset Park and Boerum Hill sections of Brooklyn with the undercover investigator paying between $800 to $ 1,200 for a handgun and up to $2,200 for an assault rifle, officials said.
In all, some 217 firearms were sold by reputed associates of Bloods gangs in Brooklyn and Virginia. The $200,000 in proceeds raked in by the suspects went to fund “a lavish lifestyle, purchasing drugs, jewelry, clothing and sneakers,” Gonzalez said, adding that some of the money was sent to jailed associates of the suspects.
Gonzalez noted that some of the defendants were caught on wiretaps boasting about their ability to get weapons and mocking Virginia’s weak gun laws. In one recording made available to reporters, an alleged member of one of the smuggling rings is overheard talking about how easy it is for him to get weapons for resale.
“There is no limit to how many guns . . . you know what I mean? I can get 20 guns from the store tomorrow. . . . I can get that Monday through Friday,” the suspect on the recording says.
Investigators said three Virginia men — Damian King, 27, Jacquan Spencer, 22, and Levar Shelborne, 29 — were the conspiracy’s ringleaders. Those three, along with most of the other defendants were in custody and were in the process of being arraigned, Gonzalez said.
As of late Wednesday, a total of 21 of the 24 defendants charged in the case had been taken into custody. Charges in the 627-count indictment included conspiracy, criminal sale of firearms and related offenses.