NYPD busts alleged gun trafficking ring from Brooklyn to South Carolina and Virginia

BROOKLYN (WABC) -- Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea on Thursday announced the bust of an alleged gun trafficking ring.

They say members of the ring purchased firearms in South Carolina and Virginia that were then transported on the Iron Pipeline and destined to be sold on the streets of Brooklyn.

Gonzalez said the investigation spanned from October 2019 to October 2020 and began based on information obtained about an individual who was allegedly known as a gun merchant in Brownsville.


"This indictment is part of our multi-pronged approach to stem the surge in gun violence that we have seen in Brooklyn and throughout the entire city this year," he said. "We are determined to work with the police department to focus specifically on the drivers of crime, including those responsible for the proliferation of firearms by bringing them to streets of Brooklyn. I commend the detectives, especially the undercovers, and my prosecutors for their joint efforts in this important case."

Those arrested include 49-year-old Montoun Hart, of Brownsville, Brooklyn; 49-year-ld Vernal Douglas, of Flatlands, Brooklyn; 31-year-old Christopher Hodges, of Walterboro, South Carolina; and 42-year-old Ira Jones, of South Boston, Virginia.

"This indictment is another example of how the NYPD and our law-enforcement partners remain focused on eliminating illegal guns from the streets of New York City," NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said. "Bringing gun traffickers to justice is dangerous work, but the NYPD remains committed to protecting New York City communities and keeping people safe. I commend the members of our Firearms Suppression Section, and specifically the Firearms Investigations Unit, and the Brooklyn District Attorney for their efforts that resulted in these indictments."

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It is alleged that on November 4, 2019, an undercover detective met Hart for the purpose of purchasing firearms from him. The undercover allegedly made six controlled firearm purchases from Hart from November 4 to November 19, 2019. There were several other transactions made during December 2019 and January 2020.

Over the course of the investigation, Hart allegedly conducted a total of 27 controlled gun buys with the undercover officers, selling a total of 44 firearms.

Douglas, who works as an MTA subway conductor, also has an address in Williston, South Carolina, where he frequently travels. It is alleged that Douglas obtained firearms during trips to South Carolina and has also asked his sources in South Carolina to send him firearms via the mail.

"The indicted conductor is not in active service and will remain out until further notice," the MTA said in a statement. "The MTA has zero tolerance for conduct that facilitates crimes of violence, and fully cooperates with law enforcement investigations in such cases."

Hodges, who lives in and operates out of Walterboro, South Carolina, allegedly accumulated firearms from a variety of sources and then traveled up to New York via a Chinatown bus company to transfer the firearms to Hart.

Finally, it is alleged that Jones, who lives and operates out of South Boston, Virginia, also traveled up to New York with firearms for Hart to sell on the streets of Brooklyn.

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The defendants have been charged in a 139-count indictment with first-, second- and third-degree criminal sale of a firearm; second- and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon; fourth-degree conspiracy and related charges.

Hart and Douglas were arraigned in Brooklyn Supreme Court. Hart has been remanded and bail was set at $750,000 for Douglas. Jones is awaiting extradition from Virginia. Hodges is still being sought.

Among the numerous firearms recovered are two assault weapons: a German Sport Guns .22 caliber rifle and a Smith & Wesson 9mm semi-automatic pistol, as well as a Ruger .44 caliber revolver, a Smith & Wesson .357 caliber revolver, a Springfield Armory 9mm pistol, a Taurus 9mm, a Glock .380 caliber, a Glock 9mm, and a Ruger P89 9mm pistol.

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