HAMILTON –Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa today announced a new initiative in which the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice are aggressively targeting gun violence in New Jersey through strategic investigations focused on seizing existing weapons in violent areas, disrupting the supply-chain of weapons trafficking into those areas, and aggressively prosecuting criminals involved in the illegal sale and possession of weapons.
Chiesa announced the initiative at the State Police Ballistics Laboratory in Hamilton with Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor and Superintendent Rick Fuentes of the New Jersey State Police.
“We’re taking direct aim at those responsible for the proliferation of guns and gun violence in our urban communities throughout New Jersey, including gang members and convicted felons,” said Chiesa. “By making weapons the focus of our investigations and prosecuting offenders under New Jersey’s tough gun laws, we’re taking numerous weapons and violent criminals off the street. Each gun we seize potentially represents a life saved. In addition, by testing the guns and entering them into the national ballistics database, we will solve additional crimes.”
In the past three weeks, the Division of Criminal Justice has obtained 21 state grand jury indictments charging 29 defendants with the unlawful possession or sale of 52 guns. The indictments stem in all but one instance from cases involving the State Police. The indictments charge the defendants with offenses ranging from unlawful possession of handguns and assault weapons to leading a weapons trafficking network, and also include charges of unlawful transportation of weapons into the state, unlawful possession of defaced weapons, unlawful possession of weapons during commission of narcotics offenses, unlawful possession of body armor piercing bullets, and unlawful possession of weapons by convicted felons. Most of the defendants are subject to the strict penalties applicable to Graves Act gun convictions, requiring mandatory periods of parole ineligibility of up to five years.
The indictments represent the first wave of prosecutions under Chiesa’s initiative. In order to stem the tide of gun violence and assist local police who are facing force reductions, the New Jersey State Police, working in coordination with the Division of Criminal Justice, has been focusing its investigatory efforts on guns, using narcotics investigations as a point of entry to identify and arrest those who sell and possess firearms in areas identified as violent crime hot spots.
The New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section has more than doubled the number of detectives assigned specifically to weapons trafficking, expanding an existing unit within a bureau into a full bureau. Since January, the new Weapons Trafficking Bureau, which includes North and South Units, has teamed with the Street Gang North and South Units to seize 101 guns and arrest 42 people for gun offenses. In that time, the Intelligence Section has seized as many guns as it seized in all of 2010 (101), and nearly as many as in 2011 (110). Nearly half of the gun offenders are convicted felons and more than a dozen are known gang members. Detectives seized 22 “community guns,” hidden where various criminals could access them, and many guns that were stolen or had defaced serial numbers. Total arrests by the four units since January, including related drug arrests, exceed 375. Additional guns were seized by Field Operations troopers that are not included in the 101 total for the initiative.
Several guns that were seized have been linked to crimes, including a homicide and other shootings, but that information is confidential due to active investigations. The Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau will prosecute the defendants under the initiative. About half of the indictments obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice during the past three weeks relate to defendants arrested by the State Police since January. The others relate to investigations from 2011. In addition to the 29 defendants indicted on gun charges, three were indicted solely on drug charges.
“By focusing on guns, we get at the root of gun violence and we also build strong cases that will enable us to send dangerous offenders away for long prison sentences,” said Taylor. “Most of the defendants we indicted for gun offenses will face mandatory periods of parole ineligibility, specifically five years if there is a prior felony conviction or substantial evidence of involvement in organized criminal activity, such as drug dealing.”
“Taking these guns off the streets of our cities – especially shared community guns that so many people can access – is saving lives and making New Jersey safer,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the State Police. “We are very proud of the impact that this group of dedicated detectives has had on crime.”
In a single week between April 23 and 29, the four participating State Police units arrested 34 individuals and seized 18 guns, 1.8 pounds of heroin, 2.9 pounds of cocaine, 5.2 ounces of crack, 20 pounds of marijuana, 3 ounces of PCP and 221 illegal prescription narcotic pills. Those seizures reflect the consistent link found between drug dealing and illicit weapons. While the efforts are focused in the greater Newark, Paterson, Jersey City, Trenton, Camden and Atlantic City areas, arrests and seizures of weapons have been made in communities throughout New Jersey. Local, county and federal law enforcement agencies have provided assistance with some investigations, and the State Police and Division of Criminal Justice are sharing intelligence with those other agencies.
The indictments and arrests include the following cases, which illustrate the range of investigations:
- On April 26, the State Police seized seven guns, including four assault weapons, and arrested Eugene Sparrow Jr., 27, of Newark, a reputed Bloods member who recently completed a sentence for armed robbery. Detectives executed a search warrant at his clothing store on South Orange Avenue, seizing a General Motors M1 Carbine .30 caliber assault rifle, two Norinco SKS 7.62 X 39mm assault rifles, a Masterpiece Arms .45 caliber sub-machine gun with silencer, and three handguns. They also seized numerous rounds of ammunition, including hollow point bullets, $18,534 in cash, and heroin, cocaine and marijuana with a street value of over $80,000.
- A former member of the U.S. Armed Forces from Monmouth County, Tamano Macalbe, 43, of Hazlet, was indicted on charges related to his alleged illegal possession and sale to an undercover State Police detective in late 2011 of six guns: a Remington Model 700 sniper rifle, a Rock River Arms LAR-15 semi-automatic rifle with an illegal large-capacity magazine, a Norinco SKS 7.62 X 39mm assault rifle, a semi-automatic Ruger Model 10/22 Carbine sniper rifle, a JC Higgins Model 88 .22-caliber rifle with an illegal large-capacity magazine, and a .38 caliber revolver.
- On Jan. 6, the State Police arrested two men from Union County who allegedly were trafficking assault weapons and other guns. The Division of Criminal Justice has indicted Andre Doss, 29, of Linden, and Duquan Wells, 29, of Linden, in connection with sales of a .22-caliber revolver and three assault weapons: a Cobray MAC-11 with a large-capacity magazine, an ITM Arms Co. semi-automatic rifle, and a Tula Arsenal fully automatic rifle with large-capacity magazine.
- A Camden man with a prior manslaughter conviction, Shawn D. Boles, 39, was indicted on charges including possession of three handguns as a convicted felon and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Boles allegedly sold crack cocaine and a handgun prior to his arrest. A search of his residence allegedly yielded two more handguns as well as crack cocaine and heroin.
- George L. Bresnihan III, 48, of Roselle, was indicted on charges, including a first-degree charge of leading a firearms trafficking network, as a result of Operation Southern Draw, a State Police-led investigation that took down a criminal ring that was illegally transporting guns from North Carolina for sale in New Jersey and selling counterfeit birth certificates and Social Security cards. Seven handguns were seized through controlled purchases. Three others were indicted: Nixon Provillon, 41, of Irvington, Hady Vanessa Purboo, 43, of Irvington, and Jeffrey Vandunk, 41, of Sanford, N.C.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Seized guns are tested and entered into the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network. NIBIN testing uses a laser to analyze each striation on bullets and shell casings. These patterns, like fingerprints, are stored in the database and compared to bullets and casings from other cases. New Jersey has five ballistics labs run by the State Police and the Essex, Bergen, Passaic and Somerset County Sheriff’s Offices. The labs also test guns for operability and do serial number restorations.
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