15 Illegal interstate gun traffickers fueling New Jersey’s inner city violence arrested

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FILE PHOTO: Guns are displayed after a gun buyback event organized by the NYPD, in the Queens borough of New York City

TRENTON, NJ – When it comes to the rise in gun violence in New Jersey, it’s not law-abiding legal gun owners committing the crimes. An increasing trend in inner-city gun violence in the state and nation is being fueled by illegal gun traffickers.

Today, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin reported 15 alleged members of a Paterson gun trafficking ring were indicted on charges of racketeering, conspiracy, and weapons offenses in connection with a criminal operation that New Jersey State Police (NJSP) say transported more than 120 guns from South Carolina into New Jersey for illegal sale here.

The operation’s ring leader, Travis Thomas, 41, of Lamar South Carolina was charged with first-degree leader of a firearms trafficking network, first-degree promoting organized street crime, and more than two dozen weapons offenses.

The state alleges Thomas organized and directed various individuals in South Carolina to procure guns for him to transport and sell in NJ.  

Detectives said that at least once a month, Thomas traveled from South Carolina to Paterson to supply individuals with firearms

The following 14 individuals are charged as participants in the gun trafficking enterprise:

South Carolina Gun Suppliers

The role of these alleged gun suppliers was to seek and procure weapons at the request of Thomas and on his behalf to be transported and sold in New Jersey.

  • Jaquon McCoy, 32, of Lamar, SC
  • Christopher Johnson, 41, of Lamar, SC
  • Ralph Antonio Ervin, 31, of Lamar, SC
  • Dontrel Nashon Scott, 23, of Timmonsville, SC
  • Vinson M. Ervin, 32, of Lamar, SC

The role of these alleged middlemen in the trafficking operation was to find buyers for the firearms Thomas was planning to transport from South Carolina to New Jersey for sale.

  • Yaquin Perry, 37, of Paterson, NJ
  • Marquetta Wilson, 33, of Paterson, NJ
  • William Thomas, 40, of Paterson, NJ
  • Kamar Walker, 21, of Paterson, NJ
  • Tyquan Evans, 38, of Paterson, NJ
  • Kyziek McCaskill, 33, of Paterson, NJ
  • Karie Washington, 28, of Paterson, NJ
  • Neilzhon Williams, 23, of Paterson, NJ
  • Kyeem Dowell, 26, of Paterson, NJ

“Thomas would reach out to his suppliers to ask what firearms they could get for him, and they would obtain the guns through street buys from other individuals. Thomas would then send photos of the firearms to his middlemen in Paterson and tell them how much money he was charging for each gun. Thomas routinely sold guns in New Jersey for three times what he had paid for them in South Carolina. The middlemen would then shop the photos around Paterson for buyers, increasing the prices to ensure their own profit,” according to court documents.

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The following statements were provided by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office today:

“Trafficked guns undermine the strong laws New Jersey has enacted to keep its residents safe from the carnage of gun violence,” said Attorney General Platkin. “It didn’t take long for weapons allegedly trafficked into Paterson by these defendants to make their way into the hands of individuals engaged in criminal conduct, including an armed robbery. I commend the New Jersey State Police for its work in shutting down this criminal enterprise and arresting the individuals allegedly operating it. The residents of Paterson and surrounding communities are no doubt sleeping better for it.”

“This indictment reflects the unwavering commitment on the part of law enforcement to investigate and disrupt the networks that traffic guns into our communities with tragic consequences,” said Director Pearl Minato. “The ringleader of this enterprise was buying guns cheap from his home state South Carolina, and selling them for top dollar in Paterson, where he had ties to the community. The only thing he cared about was making money and he did it at the expense of everyone living in the communities where his guns wound up.  We will continue to investigate and aggressively prosecute those who profit by illegally flooding New Jersey with weapons that maim and kill.”

“For three years, these defendants allegedly attempted to profit by illegally transporting more than 120 guns into New Jersey and circumvented the legal process that has been enacted to protect the residents of this state by ensuring that these weapons do not fall into the wrong hands. As a result of the collaborative efforts by our detectives and partners, we were able to bring this operation to an end,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The takedown of this criminal network represents our commitment to targeting illegal gun traffickers, and these indictments deliver the message that anyone responsible for bringing illegal weapons into our communities will be held accountable.”

“ATF remains committed to preventing the trafficking of firearms to violent criminals and into our communities,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Bryan R. Miller. “As demonstrated by the arrests in this joint investigation, we will continue to work alongside our partners at all levels to disrupt the shooting cycle and combat grave threats to public safety.”