Gun Violence Task Force Nets 18 Arrests

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Philadelphia— District Attorney Seth Williams, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey announce the arrests of 18 more individuals for gun trafficking and related offenses by the Gun Violence Task Force

Since it began in December 2006, the Task Force has opened 1,623 investigations involving the illegal transfer of firearms, made 521 arrests, and seized 1,006 firearms.  In addition, the Task Force has assisted Philadelphia Police in solving numerous shootings, burglaries, robberies, and homicides.  To date, the Task Force has convicted 342 individuals of straw purchasing and other gun trafficking offenses. 

“I am very proud of all the hard work and cooperation from local, state and federal authorities to keep guns and dangerous criminals off the streets,” Mr. Williams said. “I look forward to working with Mr. Corbett in his new role as Pennsylvania Governor, to improve safety efforts across the state.”

With funding from the State Legislature, the Gun Violence Task Force was launched to attack the proliferation of illegal guns on city streets.  Composed of veteran investigators and seasoned prosecutors, and working in close coordination with the Philadelphia Police Department, the Task Force began operations in Southwest Philadelphia and has since expanded into all six of the city’s police Divisions.

Under Pennsylvania law, a convicted felon is prohibited from purchasing a firearm.  Licensed gun dealers require proof of identity and perform a record check prior to making a sale.  Unable to legally purchase firearms from a licensed dealer, felons use false identification or hire “Straws.” These are citizens with no criminal record, used to purchase guns for convicted felons.  The “Straw”, after buying the gun and delivering it to the felon, frequently reports the gun as stolen in an attempt to avoid criminal responsibility when the gun is later used in a crime.  Felons also illegally purchase weapons “on the street” – most often guns stolen in burglaries. 

The following have been arrested by the Task Force:

Courtney Latham, 39, of the 4900 block of Wissahickon Avenue.  It is alleged that Latham straw purchased two handguns, one .40 caliber and one 9mm, for $400 each.  The 9mm was recovered by Philadelphia police during an arrest inside a bar at 4900 N. 5th Street.   The .40 caliber was recovered by Philadelphia police during the execution of a search warrant in the 1700 block of S. Ringgold Street.  Latham is charged with Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Tampering with Public Records or Information, a felony of the 3rd degree; Unsworn Falsification, a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree; Persons Not to Possess Firearms, a felony of the second degree; and Conspiracy, a felony of the 3rd degree. 

Robert Williams, 40, of the 1800 block of South Conestoga Street.  It is alleged that Williams, prohibited from possessing a firearm due to his criminal record, falsified state and federal purchase forms in an attempt to buy a .38 caliber handgun.  Williams is charged with Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Tampering with Public Records or Information, a felony of the 3rd degree; Unsworn Falsification, a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree; and Persons Not to Possess Firearms, a felony of the second degree.

Rafael Negron, 19, of the 2500 block of North Reese Street.  It is alleged that Negron, prohibited from possessing a firearm, used a straw purchaser to buy three handguns, one .40 caliber, one .38 caliber, and one 9mm.  Negron subsequently sold the 9mm illegally on the street.  The .38 was recovered by District Attorney Detectives during a narcotics investigation.  Negron is charged with Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Tampering with Public Records or Information, a felony of the 3rd degree; Unsworn Falsification, a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree; Firearms not to be Carried without a License, a felony of the 3rd degree; Carrying a Firearm on a Public Street, a misdemeanor of the 1st degree; Persons Not to Possess Firearms, a felony of the second degree; and Conspiracy, a felony of the 2nd degree. 

Larry McCully, 23, of the 800 block of North Palm Street and Cinnamon Gobern, 51, of the 5600 block of Christian Street.  It is alleged that McCully initially straw purchased a .38 caliber handgun for a convicted felon, Kenneth Johnson, Gobern’s son.  Gobern, who is prohibited from purchasing a firearm, then recruited McCully on two more occasions to straw purchase three more handguns, one .38 caliber, one 9mm, and one .40 caliber, for Johnson.  A few days later, Gobern falsified state and federal purchase forms in an attempt to purchase another .40 caliber handgun; but the sale was denied when she failed the criminal record check.  The .40 caliber handgun purchased by McCully was subsequently recovered from Johnson when he was arrested by New Jersey police.   Both McCully and Gobern are charged with Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Tampering with Public Records or Information, a felony of the 3rd degree; Unsworn Falsification, a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree; Firearms not to be Carried without a License, a felony of the 3rd degree; Carrying a Firearm on a Public Street, a misdemeanor of the 1st degree; Persons Not to Possess Firearms, a felony of the second degree; and Conspiracy, a felony of the 2nd degree.

Elijah McDaniels, 49, of the 3000 block of Bonsall Street.  It is alleged that McDaniels falsified application forms by lying about his criminal record, in an attempt to obtain a license to carry a firearm in Philadelphia.  McDaniels is charged with Tampering with Public Records or Information, a felony of the 3rd degree; Unsworn Falsification, a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree; and Persons Not to Possess Firearms, a felony of the second degree.

Bertil Holt, 70, of the 6100 block of Colgate Street.  It is alleged that Holt who is prohibited from possessing a firearm, falsified application forms in an attempt to obtain a license to carry a firearm in Philadelphia.  Holt is charged with Tampering with Public Records or Information, a felony of the 3rd degree; Unsworn Falsification, a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree; and Persons Not to Possess Firearms, a felony of the second degree.

Steven Nadal, 26, of the 600 block of West Glenwood Street.  It is alleged that Nadal falsified purchase forms by lying about his criminal record in an attempt to buy a 9mm handgun at a Philadelphia gun store.  Nadal is charged with Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Tampering with Public Records or Information, a felony of the 3rd degree; Unsworn Falsification, a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree; and Persons Not to Possess Firearms, a felony of the second degree.

Paris Hume, 33, of the 2000 block of Boston Street.  It is alleged that on two separate occasions, at two different gun stores, Hume straw purchased handguns for other individuals, at least one of whom is a convicted felon.  Hume is charged with Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Tampering with Public Records or Information, a felony of the 3rd degree; Unsworn Falsification, a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree; Persons Not to Possess Firearms, a felony of the second degree; and Conspiracy, a felony of the 2nd degree. 

Aja Reid, aka Tiffany Williams, 27, of the 2800 block of Tremont Street.  It is alleged that Reid, who had an open bench warrant under the name of Williams for failing to appear in court, falsified purchase forms in an attempt to buy a 9mm handgun at a Philadelphia gun store.  Reid is charged with Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Tampering with Public Records or Information, a felony of the 3rd degree; and Unsworn Falsification, a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree.

David Beavers, 24, of the 1300 block of South 33rd Street.  It is alleged that Beavers stole three handguns (two .45 caliber and one .38 caliber), and jewelry from a residence and tried to sell the handguns illegally on the street.  Beavers is charged with Burglary, a felony of the 1st degree; Criminal Trespass, a felony of the second degree; Theft, a felony of the 2nd degree; Receiving Stolen Property, a felony of the 2nd degree; Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Firearms not to be Carried without a License, a felony of the 3rd degree; and Carrying a Firearm on a Public Street, a misdemeanor of the 1st degree.   

Leslie Sampson, 28, of the 2000 block of Lardner Street.  It is alleged that Sampson provided a 9mm handgun to a convicted felon, Carnell Williams, who was released on parole 2 weeks after Sampson purchased the 9mm and a second 9mm handgun.  Ten days after his release, Williams was arrested in possession of one of the handguns after a confrontation with Philadelphia police.  Sampson is charged with Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Persons Not to Possess Firearms, a felony of the second degree; and Conspiracy, a felony of the 2nd degree.

Amy Trzaska, 36, of the 1300 block of Gregory Drive, Southampton, PA; and Ishmael Vasquez, 50, of the 6200 block of Eastwick Avenue.  It is alleged that Trzaska straw purchased two handguns, one 9mm and one .38 caliber for Vasquez, a convicted felon.  Philadelphia police have recovered the .38 caliber weapon.  Both are charged with Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Tampering with Public Records or Information, a felony of the 3rd degree; Unsworn Falsification, a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree; and Conspiracy, a felony of the 2nd degree.  Vasquez is also charged with Persons Not to Possess Firearms, a felony of the second degree; Firearms not to be Carried without a License, a felony of the 3rd degree; and Carrying a Firearm on a Public Street, a misdemeanor of the 1st degree  

Aquil Raheem, 24, of the 6100 block of Glenmore Street.  It is alleged that Philadelphia police officers, responding to a report of gunshots, arrested Raheem, a convicted felon, in possession of a sawed off shotgun.  Raheem is charged with Persons Not to Possess Firearms, a felony of the second degree; and Possession of a Prohibited Offensive Weapon, a misdemeanor of the 1st degree.

Sabrina McDuffy, 32, of the 1800 block of East Tioga Street.  It is alleged that McDuffy straw purchased a .45 caliber handgun for her boyfriend.  McDuffy is charged with Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Tampering with Public Records or Information, a felony of the 3rd degree; Unsworn Falsification, a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree; and Conspiracy, a felony of the 2nd degree. 

In addition to the above arrests, warrants have been issued for the following:

Bruce Cooley, 21, of the 5900 block of Norwood Street.  It is alleged that Cooley illegally possessed a .40 caliber handgun which he previously purchased illegally on the street for $300.  Cooley is charged with Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Firearms not to be Carried without a License, a felony of the 3rd degree; Carrying a Firearm on a Public Street, a misdemeanor of the 1st degree; and Conspiracy, a felony of the 2nd degree.

QB, a juvenile.  It is alleged that QB brokered the street sale of a .38 caliber revolver

by an adult to another juvenile who was subsequently arrested with the handgun.  QB is charged with Illegal Transfer of Firearms, a felony of the 3rd degree; Conspiracy, a felony of the 3rd degree; Firearms not to be Carried without a License, a felony of the 3rd degree; Carrying a Firearm on a Public Street, a misdemeanor of the 1st degree; and Possession of a Firearm by a Minor, a felony of the 3rd degree.  

Felonies of the 2nd degree are punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.  Felonies of the 3rd degree are punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine. Misdemeanors of the 1st degree are punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.  A second or subsequent conviction of 18 PA.C.S.A 6111 is a felony of the 2nd degree and carries a mandatory sentence of five to 10 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.

It was also announced that the following defendants prosecuted by the Task Force have been sentenced:

Norton Spera was sentenced to 1 to 2 years in prison by the Honorable Robert P. Coleman after pleading guilty to falsifying purchase forms in an attempt to buy a handgun.

Rashaad Grasty was sentenced to 2 to 4 years in prison by the Honorable Paula A. Patrick after pleading guilty to buying a handgun illegally on the street.

Harry Berko was sentenced to 4 ½  to 9 years in prison by the Honorable Jeffrey P. Minehart after pleading guilty to stealing 7 handguns, a rifle and a shotgun from a residence and selling them illegally on the street.

John Patrick Connell was sentenced to 1 to 2 years in prison by the Honorable Peter F. Rogers after pleading guilty to stealing two handguns.

Jeffrey Cross was sentenced to 3 to 6 years in prison by the Honorable Paula A. Patrick after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a handgun which he purchased illegally on the street.

Emerson Slotterback was sentenced to 1 ½ to 5 years in prison by the Honorable Ellen Ceisler after pleading guilty to selling stolen handguns on the street.

Michael Hyman was sentenced to 2 to 4 years in prison by the Honorable Earl W. Trent, Jr. after pleading guilty to using a straw purchaser to buy a handgun for him.

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