More than 400 illegal guns originally bought in southern states have been tracked to Philadelphia.
The office of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has identified two separate straw purchasing operations in what is called the “Iron Pipeline,” buying guns in bulk and routing them into northern states.
Eleven people have been indicted as part of a straw purchasing ring out of Georgia.
“These conspirators purchased nearly 300 firearms from dealers around Atlanta over the course of six months and transported them to Philadelphia for sale on the black market for over $100,000,” said U.S. Attorney Jennifer Williams.
A second straw purchasing operation out of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, put over 100 guns into Philadelphia’s illegal market. Three people have been indicted in that ring.
Williams described the investigations and indictments while flanked by dozens of the seized weapons, ranging in size from small-caliber pistols and .223 caliber semiautomatic rifles.
Dozens of guns known to have been resold by the two straw purchasing operations are still at large, according to ATF Special Agent Matthew Varisco.
ATF investigators noticed some weapons seized from criminals in Philadelphia had been purchased very recently out of state, what Williams called a short “time to crime,” suggesting they were bought with the intent to illegally resell them.
The investigation and indictments across state lines came through the “All Hands on Deck” violent crime prevention program, a coordinated effort of local and federal law enforcement Williams announced last year.
Williams said some of the accused gun traffickers are in custody in their home districts of Philadelphia, Myrtle Beach, or Atlanta. Some have been released on bail, and some have yet to be taken into custody.
“Now I speak directly to anyone who is engaged in illegal firearms trafficking: Consider yourselves warned,” she said. “The 14 people indicted here are just the beginning. If you participate in illegal firearms trafficking to Philadelphia, we will find you. We will pursue a federal investigation and prosecution and you will go to prison for a very long time.”
If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find grief support and resources here.