By MICHAEL BALSAMO
WASHINGTON — Twelve people, including three U.S. Army soldiers, are accused in a large-scale gun trafficking ring that prosecutors allege supplied nearly 100 guns to gang members in Chicago and led to at least two killings, the Justice Department said Friday.
The soldiers — Demarcus Adams, 21; Jarius Brunson, 22; and Brandon Miller, 22 — were enlisted in the Army and stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, where they would legally purchase guns from local dealers in Tennessee and Kentucky, prosecutors charged. The soldiers are accused of selling them to members of the Gangster Disciples street gang in the Pocket Town neighborhood on Chicago's south side, according to the 21-count indictment.
The indictment charges the group with conspiring to violate federal firearms laws, among other crimes. If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison.
The case is part of the Justice Department’s push to investigate and prosecute gun trafficking amid rising crime across the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has vowed to prioritize prosecutions of firearms traffickers and so-called “straw purchasers,” who legally purchase firearms to sell them to people who can’t legally poses guns, often in states with more restrictive gun laws.
“The Justice Department will spare no resources to hold accountable criminal gun traffickers,” Garland said at a news conference Friday. “There is no hiding place for those who flood our communities with illegal guns. It does not matter where you are, or how far away you are. If you illegally traffic guns, we and our law enforcement partners nationwide will find you.”
Prosecutors allege Miller would receive orders from members of the Gangster Disciples in Chicago for specific guns to purchase and he, Brunson and Adams would then buy them from dealers in Clarksville, Tennessee and Oak Grove, Kentucky, and give them to gang members, who paid through money transfer apps, including Zelle and CashApp. Miller also advertised that he had 1,000 rounds of ammunition available for sale, prosecutors say.
Authorities believe the trio provided over 90 illegally obtained firearms to the gang “to facilitate the on-going violent disputes between the Pocket Town Gangster Disciples and their rival gangs,” the Justice Department said.
Investigators believe one of the guns was used in a shooting at a party in Chicago last March that left one man dead, and seven others wounded. Another was used in a killing at a Chicago barbershop in January 2021, according to officials.
The nine others charged in the indictment are: Blaise Smith, 29; Rahaeem Johnson, 24; Bryant Larkin, 33; Corey Curtis, 26; Elijah Tillman, 24; Lazarus Greenwood, 23; Dwight Lowry, 41; and Dreshion Parks, 25, all of Chicago; along with Terrell Mitchell, 27, of Davenport, Iowa. Two people who were alleged to be part of the conspiracy were killed “as a result of gang violence, which was facilitated by the firearms illegally transferred to individuals in the Chicago,” prosecutors say.
The indictment spells out how Miller would exchange messages with his associates in Chicago to negotiate the prices of the guns.
“The silver one a 380 u still want it it’s a steal,” Miller wrote to Lowry in December 2020, the indictment says. Lowry wrote back, “Yup can’t beat it,” according to court papers.
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