Defendants Used Facebook to Market and Sell Firearms Illegally Obtained by Straw Purchasers
An indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Joseph Johnson, Brianna Glee and Tyshon Stevens as members of a gun trafficking conspiracy that used straw gun buyers to purchase more than 40 firearms from dealers in Virginia between April 2017 and May 2018. Johnson and Stevens were also charged with being felons in possession of a firearm. According to court filings, multiple firearms that were illegally acquired and distributed by the defendants were recovered by law enforcement officers in the New York area.
Johnson and Glee were arrested today and are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon at the federal courthouse in Norfolk, Virginia. Stevens is currently in Virginia state custody, and will be presented in federal court in Brooklyn at a later date.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Ashan M. Benedict, Special Agent-in-Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, New York Field Division (ATF), and James P. O’Neill, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the indictment.
“As alleged in the indictment, the defendants’ illegal trafficking of firearms put deadly weapons into the hands of criminals,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “This Office is working tirelessly with our partners to stop the flow of illegal firearms through the Interstate 95 corridor by individuals who traffic in firearms and the straw buyers who enable their business.” Mr. Donoghue thanked the ATF and the NYPD’s Brooklyn South Gang Squad for their outstanding efforts during this investigation.
“The defendants allegedly took part in a scheme to traffic illegal firearms thus endangering the lives of each and every citizen on the street,” stated ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Benedict. “ATF remains committed to combating violent crime by aggressively identifying, investigating, and arresting individuals who seek to put dangerous firearms into the hands of individuals that should not possess them. I would like to thank the personnel from our multiagency cooperative working group at ATF’s New York Field Division Crime Gun Intelligence Center, ATF’s Washington Field Division and our local partners at NYPD’s Brooklyn South Gang Squad. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the United States Attorney’s Office for their work in prosecuting the case.”
“This case underscores some disturbing truths: Illegal guns proliferate and circulate in higher-crime neighborhoods that still need our help,” stated NYPD Commissioner O’Neill. “In lockstep with our federal partners at the ATF and the Eastern District, the NYPD will continue to perform the incredibly dangerous work of preventing these firearms from getting into criminals’ hands.”
As set forth in the indictment and other filings by the government, the gun-trafficking operation was run by Johnson, who enlisted straw buyers including Glee to purchase multiple firearms. As part of the scheme, the straw buyers lied on ATF Forms 4473 by falsely certifying that they were not purchasing the firearms on behalf of others. Johnson then used Facebook to market those firearms to multiple individuals with gang ties in Brooklyn. In June 2017, Johnson contacted a potential buyer in Brooklyn on Facebook sending images of an array of firearms. Johnson also relied on Stevens and others to find buyers for the firearms in New York City. Stevens, using Facebook, communicated with Johnson about his inventory and prices. Two firearms obtained by Johnson’s straw purchasers were subsequently seized by the NYPD from previously convicted felons in New York.
If convicted, Johnson and Stevens face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. Glee faces up to five years’ imprisonment on each count. The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Drew G. Rolle.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Brooklyn, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-279 (MKB)
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Eastern District of New York