First Ever NJ ‘Ghost Guns’ Arrests — Cops Say AR-15s Were Untraceable
CAMDEN -- New Jersey authorities say they've taken down a criminal network that was illegally trafficking "ghost guns" -- untraceable weapons assembled from kits -- as well as cocaine.
Among the weapons cited by Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Camden Coutny law enforcement -- six untraceable AR-15 rifles they allege four men conspired to sell. Parts for two more AR-15 "ghost guns" also were seized, the law enforcement officials said. Thirteen guns were recovered in all, they said.
Those charges are the first ever in a ghost gun trafficking case under a law Gov. Phil Murphy signed last year.
Twelve people were charged in "Operation Stone Wall," Grewal and Camden authorities said at a press conference Monday morning. They said the operation began a year ago as an investigation of cocaine distribution in Lindenwold. Ten of those charged are accused of trafficking narcotics, including two of the four people accused of trafficking in the guns; the remaining two are only accused of the weapons offenses.
They said investigators captured some of the accused discussing a gun sale that would be delayed because they could no longer ship guns to New Jersey due to the new law.
"We just gotta go out of state now," the law enforcement officials say Paul Corum was recorded saying while speaking to one of the other defendants, Nicholas Cilien, in February. "And then we gotta go across the border to get it ... but it's not a problem. ... Put it together and then, you know what I'm saying, give you a call and let you know."
The officials said three days later, two of the AR-15s were sold.
“This case starkly illustrates why ghost guns are so dangerous, because drug dealers and other criminals can easily acquire them and traffic them into our communities, where they will be virtually untraceable if used in a crime,” Grewal said in an announcement provided by his office. “Assault rifles like these pose an especially deadly threat to law enforcement, innocent bystanders, and others when placed in the wrong hands, and suffice it to say no one conducted any background checks here. Shutting down this network and preventing the further distribution of ghost guns to criminals protects public safety and law enforcement safety.”
He said the case shows the threat of ghost guns "is real."
"The only purpose these weapons serve is to remain undetected in the commission of violent crimes,” Colonel Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police said in the same announcement. “By removing these drugs and illegal guns from the streets we have undoubtedly shielded the public from the death and despair that would have followed if these weapons would have made it into the hands of criminals.."
Christopher Stoner, 41, of Lindenwold, Nicholas Cilien, 38, of Mt. Ephraim, Paul Corum, 43, of Lindenwold, and Marc Freeman, 53, of Lindenwold all face a variety of weapons charges, including ones specifically related to possessing undetectable firearms. Stoner and Cilien face drug charges as well
Lamont White, 43, of Lindenwold, Michael Smith, 48, of Woodbury Heights, Fabian Sapp, 45, of Sicklerville, Devon Davis, 31, of Chesilhurst, Monroe Gadson, 28, of Camden, Tyriek Bradford, 20, of Lindenwold and John Rayford, 41, of Lindenwold all face drug charges.
Authorities say they also seized 525 grams of cocaine, with a street value of $18,500 to $37,000, and three bundles of heroin, as well as about 120 oxycodone and Xanax pills, drug packaging materials and marijuana.