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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

59 Charged With Illegal Trafficking, Possession, and Use of Firearms, Drug Trafficking, and Conspiracy as a Result of Summer Violent Crime Reduction Effort in Cleveland

The investigation resulted in the seizure of over 240 firearms, 203 of which law enforcement purchased from illegal sellers and permanently removed from Cleveland’s streets.

Federal, county and local law enforcement officials today announced that 59 individuals were charged and arrested in connection with firearms-trafficking, narcotics, conspiracy or other firearms offenses after a three month, violent-crime-reduction initiative in Cleveland this summer. The vast majority were charged in U.S. District Court, while the remaining individuals were charged in state court. These individuals were apprehended in a series of coordinated arrests made during the last two weeks.

U.S. Attorney Rebecca C. Lutzko made the announcement Tuesday. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Marshal Peter J. Elliott and Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb provided additional details relating to the initiative, as well as regarding larger firearms enforcement and violence-prevention efforts.

“The Justice Department’s work to disrupt and dismantle the criminal gun trafficking pipelines that flood our communities with illegal guns had never been more urgent than it is now,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “That is why our prosecutors and agents are working more closely than ever before with our local law enforcement partners to get illegal guns off of our streets and hold accountable those who put illegal guns in the hands of violent criminals.”

Indictments and complaints were recently unsealed in federal court. They detail a lengthy investigation, led by ATF, that focused on reducing firearms-related crime in several areas of Cleveland by studying data about areas with gun-crime violence, then identifying illegal firearms sellers to disrupt their trafficking. The investigation resulted in the seizure of over 240 firearms, 203 of which law enforcement purchased from illegal sellers and permanently removed from Cleveland’s streets. NIBIN data shows that a significant number of those firearms are connected to violent criminal activity, including homicides and felonious assaults, that took place in Cleveland and surrounding Northeast Ohio suburbs in 2022 and 2023. Of the purchased firearms, 17 are “ghost guns” — meaning, unserialized and untraceable firearms, typically assembled at home — and 28 are machinegun conversion devices or “switches” —a  device that enables a firearm to fire in fully automatic mode.

In one case, law enforcement purchased more than 50 firearms from a group of 7 people working together to sell firearms on Cleveland’s streets, even though none of the involved individuals holds a federal firearms license. Those firearms included stolen firearms, firearms with obliterated serial numbers, “switches,” already-loaded firearms, assault rifles, and firearms that had been previously used to commit violent crimes. Sometimes these individuals also sold controlled substances to law enforcement officers at the same time. In two additional cases, law enforcement purchased, respectively, 33 firearms (including “switches”) and 23 firearms (including “switches”) from two other individuals who do not hold a federal firearms license. Many of these sales took place in public parking lots of business establishments during business hours or in recreational areas while nearby uninvolved, law-abiding citizens were engaged in their day-to-day errands or engaged in recreational activities.

Also during this investigation, the ATF identified 5 individuals who were actively engaged in a conspiracy to conduct a home invasion and rob, at gunpoint, what they believed to be a “stash house” containing several kilograms of cocaine. Law enforcement intervened before these individuals could carry out their plan. Additionally, during this investigation, law enforcement purchased or seized almost 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, 215 grams of cocaine base, almost 3 kilograms of methamphetamine, 686 fentanyl pills, almost 1.5 kilograms of heroin/fentanyl mix, and 1,144 MDMA pills (otherwise known as Molly or Ecstasy).

Some defendants were charged together, but several others were charged individually. In all cases, however, the charges stemmed from the extensive, targeted and sustained effort this past summer, led by ATF and assisted by other federal, state and local law enforcement partners, to clamp down on the illegal firearms trafficking, use and possession, as well as the associated distribution of drugs, in Cleveland.

The following is a breakdown of the charges in U.S. District Court, according to court documents:

  • Malachi Berry, 21, of Cleveland, Darvell Jackson, 20, of Cleveland, and Steven Armstrong, 19, of Cleveland, were charged together in a conspiracy to possess a machinegun. Jackson and Armstrong were further charged with illegal possession of a machinegun.
    • In the same indictment, these individuals, along with Nimar Linder, 21, of Cleveland, were also charged with conspiracy to engage in the business of dealing firearms without a federal firearms license.
    • Armstrong and Linder were charged as felons in possession of a firearm.
  • According to court documents, the following individuals have been indicted on distribution of drugs charges: Carlos Dupree, 43, of Cleveland, Dominique Goldsby, 32, of Cleveland, Jesse McDade, 41, of Cleveland, Norman Young, 37, of Cleveland, Martin Goodson, 41, of Cleveland, Lajuan Erwin, 25, of Mayfield Heights, Chevez Moorer, 23, of Cleveland, Aaron Wimbley, 22, of Garfield Heights, Alexander Duncan, 19, of Cleveland, Damien Body, 39, of Cleveland, Derrick Donald, 41, of Cleveland, Nahum Holmes, 31, of Brook Park, Akil Edmonds, 39, of Cleveland, Willie C. Jackson, 36, of Cleveland, and Deandre Smith, 36, of Cleveland.
  • Indicted together were Josean Ortiz-Stuart, 34, of Cleveland, Jesue Vega, 29, of Cleveland, who were both charged with distribution of drugs. Also named in that indictment was Gerald Matos, 38, of Cleveland, who was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
  • Indicted together were Elias Pagan, 32, of Cleveland, Ivan Santana, 26, of Cleveland, Angel Santiago, 46, of Cleveland. Pagan also faces numerous charges for distribution of drugs, as well being a felon in possession of firearms, and both Pagan and Santana were also charged with engaging in the business of importing, manufacturing or dealing in firearms without a federal firearms license. Santiago is also charged with distribution of drugs.
  • Ambray Underwood, 25, of Euclid, was charged in an indictment for conspiracy to distribute drugs and drug distribution.
  • Willie Earl Jackson, 26, of Cleveland, and Shane Plats, 31, of Ashtabula, were charged in the same indictment with engaging in the business of dealing firearms without a federal firearms license. Jackson was also charged in that indictment with trafficking in firearms.
  • Deshonn Brown, 19, of Cleveland and Demarius Jefferson, 18, of Cleveland, were both charged with illegal possession of machineguns.
  • Jacob Plumb, 40, of Parma, was charged with distribution of drugs and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
  • Isaiah Overton, 23, of Cleveland, and Charles Morris, 33, of East Cleveland, were charged in a single indictment with distribution of drugs. Additionally, Overton was charged with using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
  • Corte’z Buggs, 29, of Cleveland was charged in an indictment with distribution of drugs and receipt of firearm while under felony indictment.
  • Michael McPherran, 38, of Parma, Ohio, was charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs and distribution of drugs.
  • Harold Pearl, 39, of Cleveland, was charged with distribution of drugs and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
  • Charged by complaint with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime were Alante Heard, 33, of Cleveland, Antonio Sweeney, 24, of Cleveland, Maurice Commons, 22, of North Randall, and Markus Williams, 33, of Cleveland.
  • Charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm were Marquis Henson, 38, of Cleveland, Deon Brown, 19, of Cleveland, and Clarence Payne, 38, of Cleveland.
  • Kenneth Smith, 23, of East Cleveland, was charged with engaging in the business of dealing firearms without a federal firearms license, illegal possession of a machinegun and being a felon in possession of firearms.
  • Andre Lewis, 35, of Cleveland, was charged with distribution of drugs and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
  • Devaunty Lewis, 31, of Cleveland, and Nicholas Johnson, 33, of Cleveland, were charged jointly in an indictment with conspiracy to engage in the business of importing, manufacturing or dealing in firearms without a federal firearms license and conspiracy to engage in firearms trafficking. Both were individually charged with engaging business in dealing with firearms without a license and trafficking in firearms.
    • Lewis was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
    • Johnson was also charged with engaging in the business of importing, manufacturing or dealing in firearms without a federal firearms license.
  • The following were charged in an indictment with conspiracy to engage in the business of importing, manufacturing or dealing in firearms without a federal firearms license: Maurice Sterett, 39, of Cleveland, Antonio Cross, 22, of Cleveland, Marvell Roach, 43, of Willoughby, Kenneth Timberlake, 30, of Cleveland, and Travis Williams, 46, of Cleveland.
    • Sterett, Cross, Timberlake and Williams were further charged, individually, with engaging in the business of importing, manufacturing or dealing in firearms without a federal firearms license.
    • Sterett, Cross, Roach, Timberlake and Williams were also charged with conspiracy to engage in firearms trafficking and individual counts of firearms trafficking.
    • Sterett, Timberlake, Williams and Roach were also charged with being a felon in possession of firearms.
    • Sterett was further charged with distribution of drugs.
    • Finally, Cross was also charged with illegal transfer of a machinegun.
  • Darion Shelton, 20, of Cleveland, was charged with engaging in the business of dealing firearms without a federal firearms license and trafficking in firearms in connection with machinegun conversation devices or “switches.” He has also been charged with illegal possession of a machinegun.

The following is a breakdown of the charges in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, according to court documents:

  •  Marcel Battle, 30, of Canton, drug trafficking.
  •  Avant Wilson, 22, of Cleveland, receiving stolen property (motor vehicle).
  •  Nathan Roby, 44, of Cleveland, drug trafficking.
  •  Raymond Callahan, 34, of Cleveland, drug trafficking.
  •  Raphael Deen, 30, of Cleveland, drug trafficking.
  •  Terry Lyons, 33, of Cleveland, drug trafficking.

An indictment or complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted, each defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal records, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum, and, in most cases, it will be less than the maximum.

The investigation preceding the indictments was led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, with assistance from the Cleveland Division of Police, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, the Ohio Investigative Unit, Customs and Border Patrol, Air and Marine Division, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office. This operation was also part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) initiative. The cases stemming from this investigation are being prosecuted by a team of AUSAs in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, led by AUSA Kelly Galvin, and by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.

Read more at ATF

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Homeland Security Today
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.
Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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