QUEENS, N.Y. (PIX11) — Illegal gun sales are taking place right in our own backyard, often in the most ordinary of places.
One of them was a nondescript parking lot in Astoria, where traffickers made several illegal gun sales to an undercover NYPD detective, according to Queens prosecutors.
“I haven’t seen anything bad happening growing up, so that’s mind-boggling to know that something’s happening right here,” said Astoria resident Mahmuda.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz stood Monday with her team and the NYPD detectives who took 109 illegal guns, along with thousands of rounds of ammunition, off the street.
They were all seized from what investigators dubbed the “Amazon Pipeline” and include pistols, semi-automatic rifles, and at least two ghost guns.
The Amazon reference stems from the suspects’ use of the company’s branded boxes to deliver the illegal guns in sales that investigators say topped $120,000.
Authorities said at the heart of the sting was a single undercover officer who developed a working relationship with three suspects — all cousins — with ties to Ghana in West Africa:
- Abdul Haruna, 27, of the Bronx
- Ahmed Mutalib, 32, of Georgia
- Murtala Haruna, 30, of Cincinnati
Katz said wiretap surveillance indicated the illegal guns were likely headed for Ghana.
But when Katz was asked how and where Haruna sourced the weapons in Ohio, her answer pointed to unfinished business.
“We don’t talk about ongoing investigations. I like to get to the source. But our priority, the NYPD’s priority, is making sure that the guns that we know about never reach the street,” said Katz.
All three cousins are in custody and have been indicted on 575 counts. They are facing firearm, criminal possession of a weapon, conspiracy, and money laundering charges. They face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.