“We’re taking guns out of the hands of gun dealers and people actually use them in shootings,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Wednesday during a news conference announcing the breakup of the ring at the Camden County Metro Police headquarters in Camden.
CAMDEN — Criminals in need of a gun went to Tymere Jennings.
Law enforcement described the 35-year-old Evesham man as a “middleman” or “wholesaler” in a major gun trafficking ring that supplied firearms purchased legally in Ohio to be sold on the black market in Camden, where criminals often used them in violent crimes in the city and elsewhere.
Among the more than 30 guns the ring resold on the city’s black market were two AK-47 assault rifles, an AR-15 assault rifle and 14 handguns.
Law enforcement described it as the iron pipeline and said the successful breakup of the group and its gun supplies would likely save lives.
“We’re taking guns out of the hands of gun dealers and people who actually use them in shootings,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Wednesday during a news conference announcing the breakup of the ring at the Camden County Metro Police headquarters.
“Each gun that we seize or prevent from reaching the street represents countless lives saved,” Grewal said.
Seven people have been charged with racketeering, conspiracy, transporting firearms into the state for illegal sale, and money laundering in connection with the ring’s alleged activities from April 2016 to July 2017.
The other suspects included Jennings’ cousin, Chucky Scott, 25, of Columbus, Ohio, who is the accused leader of the ring; Anthony Hammond, 26, also of Columbus, Ohio, the suspected “straw purchaser” who bought the guns legally at Ohio shops or online; and four other middlemen accused of marketing and distributing the weapons in Camden: Eduardo Caban, 40; Eric Moore, 47; Jamar Folk, 33, and Darren Harville, 51, all of Camden.
All seven men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the racketeering charge, which mandates that they serve a minimum of 85 percent of their sentence before being eligible for parole. The conspiracy and gun transporting charges carry sentences of between five and 10 years, and the laundering charge between three and five years.
Grewal was joined at the news conference by Camden County Metro Chief Scott Thomson, Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig, and New Jersey State Police Col. Patrick Callahan. Together, they described the group’s alleged activities and how teamwork among numerous law enforcement agencies broke up the supply chain.
“Today’s case is a great example of what happens when law enforcement at all levels collaborate across geographical and jurisdictional lines,” Honig said. “This really is law enforcement at its best working as a team.”
The ring’s supply chain began in Ohio, where Scott would visit shops and websites where guns are sold and take photos, according to authorities. He would then text the photos to Jennings and the other middlemen, who would find buyers in Camden at prices set by Scott.
The middlemen would charge a so-called “tax” on the gun price, which they kept as their fee, Honig said.
Hammond, who had no criminal history that forbade him from buying firearms, would obtain the guns legally through “straw purchases” and deliver them to Scott, who would transport them to Camden for resale to the middlemen and their buyers, Honig said.
Most of the sales were made with cash, but on some occasions Scott was paid by money order, authorities said.
Over 30 firearms allegedly were trafficked from Ohio to Camden in this manner, including 17 that were recovered during the investigation.
The total proceeds were not revealed, but authorities said the assault rifles were resold for as much as $2,000 apiece.
The investigation originated last year as a probe by the Camden Metro Police, state police and Camden Drug Enforcement Agency into suspected heroin dealing by Caban and Baron Coleman, 38, of Philadelphia. It was expanded after it was determined that Caban had also illegally sold guns, including 10 that were recovered, Honig said.
A major break in the case came in July, after the West Virginia State Police seized weapons found in a vehicle driven by Scott during a motor vehicle stop. The guns were later traced to Hammond, authorities said.
The suspects were named in a Feb. 6 indictment charging them with racketeering, conspiracy and gun trafficking. Caban and Coleman were charged in a separate indictment accusing Coleman of supplying heroin to Caban, who then supplied the drugs to dealers in Camden.
A kilo of heroin and a kilo of cocaine were seized from Coleman’s Philadelphia home, authorities said.
Additional details about the investigation were not released. However, Grewal and others said it was illustrative of the danger posed by “straw purchases” of guns in other states and how easily they can be trafficked into New Jersey.
The vast majority of all guns seized or used in crimes in New Jersey come from out of state, according to Grewal.
In this case, he said Hammond was able to walk into Ohio gun stores, present his driver’s license and, following a 25-30-minute background check, leave with any number of firearms.
“My understanding is there is not a limit on the numbers or the types of guns you can walk out with. That’s the law in that state, and that’s what led to the easy supply of guns being brought here to New Jersey and sold here illegally for cash,” Grewal said.
The news conference came the day after Gov. Phil Murphy participated in a roundtable discussion on gun safety with Assembly majority leaders and gun control advocates in Cherry Hill. Murphy called for more regional action on gun control, and promised he would sign several bills vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, including a proposed 10-round limit on magazine capacity.
The event drew a response from a leading gun rights advocate, who was critical of the proposals.
“No one will be made safer by these misguided proposals, because only the law-abiding will follow them,” said Scott Bach, director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs. “Violent criminals laugh at hardware bans — the only thing they understand is severe punishment. The administration needs to stop targeting hardware and start targeting violent criminal behavior instead.”
One gun measure Christie did sign in 2013 was penned by Sen. Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, and increased the penalties for illegal trafficking. The law also permits authorities to seize and apply for forfeiture of motor vehicles used to transport illegal guns, and requires that they serve at least 85 percent of mandatory prison sentences.
Singleton cited the bill Wednesday after being informed about the gun trafficking arrests.
“I proudly authored the Anti Gun Trafficking Act of 2013, which heightens the penalties for the crime of firearms trafficking. This enhanced legal tool may not end all gun violence, but it will allow the state of New Jersey to hold these individuals accountable for the destruction that their distribution of illegal firearms causes in our communities,” Singleton said.