New York City and state law enforcement officers have pulled 19 illegal guns and a cache of cocaine from circulation as part of a monthslong investigation into a gun and drug ring whose members were charged in an indictment unsealed Wednesday.
The 123-count indictment, which was made public by Queens Supreme Court Judge Evelyn Braun, is the result of a 16-month probe that Attorney General Letitia James and Mayor Adams touted as a sign the state and city are making a dent in the proliferation of ghost guns, which are difficult to trace because they’re sold in parts and usually don’t bear serial numbers.
As part of the probe, the attorney general’s Organized Crime Task Force and the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force — which is made up of officers from the NYPD, the state police and the DEA — removed 12 ghost guns, including assault rifles, from the streets.
“Every single day someone in New York or in this country is harmed by gun violence,” James said at a press conference held at her downtown offices. “We witnessed it yesterday with two teenagers outside their schools in broad daylight — and increasingly ghost guns are to blame for this destruction and this violence.”
The indictment charges that Eduardo Hernandez, Jose Garcia and Euclides Castillo trafficked in 19 firearms, high-capacity ammunition clips and 560 grams of cocaine, worth about $25,000.
Hernandez and Garcia allegedly procured the guns in Massachusetts, brought them to New York and then sold them from Hernandez’s Queens home and in Port Chester, Westchester County. Prior to his involvement with those two, Castillo worked for Smith & Wesson in the gun manufacturer’s assembly division, said James, who added that Castillo gave buyers instructions on how to operate the guns.
Adams and James have both made gun seizures a priority during their time in office, and on Wednesday they offered praise to President Biden, who announced a day earlier that he was issuing an executive order aimed at beefing up enforcement of federal background check laws geared toward gun buyers.
Adams noted that since he took office in January 2022, the NYPD has seized more than 8,500 guns and made over 5,000 gun arrests. In June, he and James announced that they were suing several ghost gun makers, with Adams saying at the time that “we are not going to let gun companies turn New York into a city of mail-ordered murder.”
The mayor’s tone Wednesday was equally grave. He noted that because ghost guns are essentially untraceable, the current estimates of the number of guns currently in circulation in the U.S. are likely way off base.
“There’s a level of clarity on the challenges that we are facing,” Adams said. “We have an increased number of ghost guns we removed off our street in comparison to last year, but we’re seeing a continuous reproduction. Someone with a 3-D printer could sit inside their home and print out a device of death.”