FREDERICK, MD (PIX11) — When PIX11 News heard about an alleged “ghost gun” dealer busted on Sunrise Highway in Queens–accused of having enough gun parts in his van to build 74 plastic weapons–we wanted to know where he was from. It was the biggest bust of its kind in New York State.
It turned out the suspect, Wenli Bai–57–lives in a stately home in Frederick, Maryland, which is 240 miles away from Queens. He spent two weeks in custody before he made bail on March 22.
“The facts, probably you don’t know right now,” Bai said in halting English, when the Chinese-born suspect answered his front door in Maryland. He stepped out on the stoop wearing white socks and a plaid shirt.
Bai has pleaded not guilty in the case and we asked him if he felt he’d been unfairly charged.
“Right, right,” he responded. “There must be some extreme reason for this,” he added.f
The office of Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz has charged him with more than 330 criminal counts, claiming he was driving a silver Toyota Sienna containing distinctive white boxes holding Polymer gun kits. He was also accused of offering AR-15 receivers for sale to an undercover cop, along with high-capacity magazines that can hold more than ten bullets.
The Toyota Sienna he was driving on March 8 at the time of his arrest was sitting in his Maryland driveway. He’s just one of multiple suspects who have been charged in ghost gun cases since last fall, including a Long Island dentist accused of building the weapons in his Massapequa basement, beneath his office, and an FDNY firefighter who was tailed to a gun show in Pennsylvania.
The Queens DA told PIX11 News she’s been alarmed at the number of ghost gun seizures in her borough alone.
“In the first quarter of 2022, we’ve experienced a 487 percent increase in ghost guns,” Katz said. “You can actually buy the parts from one hundred vendors in the United States of America.”
The kits are considered easy to use and most weapons come 80 percent assembled, encased in something called a jib. Many law enforcement personnel said the guns can be built in less than 30 minutes, sometimes 15 minutes.
Ghost guns have been involved in recent, fatal shootings, including the death of a 16-year-old Bronx girl, Angellyh Yambo, who was hit by a stray bullet on her way home from school in early April.
During our time in Maryland, PIX11 News visited two gun stores. The first, Haze Line LLC in Laurel, is owned by military veteran Hazen Lancaster, who said he doesn’t sell the gun kits anymore.
“I saw them being marketed to Black males in the inner cities,” Lancaster told us. “They’re cheap.”
The kits sell for under $90 and many are manufactured by the Polymer 80 company in Nevada.
We also traveled to Hanover Armory in Glen Burnie, Maryland, about 30 miles southeast from Laurel. In Glen Burnie, we found a young man leaving the store with two Polymer kits in a plastic bag.
The employee at the counter wasn’t interested in speaking to a New York reporter.
When we approached him and asked if he was selling the kits–which are still legal–he responded, “I’m not talking to the press.”
PIX11 News will present a second report from Pennsylvania this week, where there’s debate about whether gun parts buyers can be forced to fill out government forms when buying the kits.