Philadelphia, April 11, 2010: District Attorney R. Seth Williams, Attorney General Tom Corbett and Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey today announced that the Gun Violence Task Force has arrested/obtained arrest warrants for 16 more individuals charging them with gun trafficking and related offenses. Since it began in December 2006, the Task Force has opened 1444 investigations involving the illegal transfer of firearms, made 449 arrests, and seized 819 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 222 individuals of straw purchasing and other gun trafficking offenses.
“The tireless work of the Gun Violence Task Force continues to pay off not only for the City of Philadelphia but for the entire state,” said District Attorney Williams. “These new arrests show that we will continue to fight against the huge problem of illegal gun crimes.
In December 2006, 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”, citizens with no criminal record, to purchase guns for them. 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.
It was announced today that the following have been arrested by the Task Force: Gregory Smith, 35, of the 2100 block of West Ontario Street; Michael Laws, 28, of the 7700 block of Penrose Avenue, Elkins Park, PA.; and Regina Longstrah, 32, of the 2200 block of Bouvier Street. It is alleged that Smith, Laws, and Longstrah conspired to buy a FN Five Seven high powered handgun from a Bucks County gun shop for Smith, a convicted felon. The three were followed from the gun store to Philadelphia by Task Force Agents who arrested Smith and Laws in possession of the loaded firearm. Darrell McNeil, 30, of the 2000 block of Morris Street; and Leon Randolph, 33, of the 1500 block of Hicks Street. It is alleged that McNeil and Randolph, conspired to steal more than a dozen handguns from a residence and sold them on the street. Six of the handguns were subsequently recovered by Philadelphia Police in six separate incidents including two homicides. Brian Williams, 52, of the 1800 block of North 7th Street. It is alleged that Williams stole a .380 caliber handgun from a residence which he later used to commit a robbery of an armored car in which a police officer was shot. Jalil Rogers, 20, of the 3600 block of North 17th Street. It is alleged that Rogers illegally purchased a 9mm handgun on the street. The handgun was subsequently recovered by Philadelphia Police from Roger’s residence. Kenneth Jordan, 41, of the 1500 block of North 18th Street. It is alleged that Jordan sold two handguns, one 9mm and one .40 caliber, illegally on the street. The .45 caliber, loaded, was subsequently recovered by Philadelphia police while executing a search and seizure warrant. Terrell Dockey, 23, of the 2800 block of Stiles Street. It is alleged that Dockey purchased a 9mm handgun illegally on the street. Dockey was arrested two days later in the possession of the firearm and charged with using the weapon to shoot at two men, wounding one. Lorraine McCullough, 48, of the 3600 block of Marvine Street. It is alleged that McCullough straw purchased two handguns, a .45 caliber and a 9mm, for her boyfriend, a convicted felon. Both firearms, along with three others owned by McCollough, were confiscated by Philadelphia Police. Trevor Kincaid, 27, of the unit block of Park Avenue, Willow Grove, PA It is alleged that Kincaid was paid $300 each to straw purchase six handguns, four 9mm, and two .38 caliber, from gun stores and a gun show. Three of the handguns have been recovered by Philadelphia police in connection with arrests. Jamear Dupree, 20, of the unit block of Madeley Street. It is alleged that Dupree, a convicted felon, stole a 9mm handgun from the residence of an acquaintance. Linda Copeland-Jones, 46, of the 2100 block of North 24th Street. It is alleged that Copeland-Jones, a convicted felon, falsified purchase forms in an attempt to buy a .380 caliber handgun from a Philadelphia gun store. Ramon Garcia, aka Mark McCrae, 21, of the 700 block of Attwood Road. It is alleged that Garcia was arrested in possession of 68 grams of marijuana and 192 grams of heroin as well as a .40 caliber handgun stolen in Darby Township. The gun and drugs were discovered in a secret compartment in Garcia’s auto.
In addition to the above arrests, warrants have been issued for the following: Mildred Sanchez, 51, of the 3700 block of North 10th Street. It is alleged that Sanchez illegally purchased a .45 caliber handgun on the street. The loaded handgun was subsequently recovered by Philadelphia Police while executing a search warrant for narcotics at a dollar store on Rising Sun Avenue. Miriam Vangas, 28, of the 1200 block of Elbridge Street. It is alleged that Vangas provided armed guards and/or security service to a bar without a Private Detective License as required by law, and provided a handgun to a convicted felon. Vangas’ husband, Benjamin Vangas, a convicted felon, was arrested and convicted of carrying a firearm while in the employ of Vangas’ guard business.
It was also announced that the following defendants prosecuted by the Task Force have been sentenced: Paul Golphin was sentenced to 2 to 4 years in state prison by the Honorable Paula A. Patrick after he pled guilty to falsifying firearms purchase forms. Joshua Shannon was sentenced to 3 to 6 years in state prison by the Honorable Ellen Ceisler after he was found guilty of illegally possessing a loaded .38 caliber handgun on the street. At the time of this offense, Shannon was out on bail for hiring a straw purchaser to buy him a handgun. Paul Johnson was sentenced to 5 to 10 years in state prison by the Honorable Susan Schulman after he pled guilty to purchasing a handgun illegally on the street and hiring a straw purchaser to buy a second handgun for him. Joseph Jones was sentenced to 3 to 6 years in state prison by the Honorable Glynnis Hill after he pled guilty to illegally selling 4 handguns on the street.