The U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Arizona announced that 49 defendants will be charged with federal firearms and drug trafficking offenses as part of a nine-month undercover operation at a west-Valley secondhand shop. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is expected to charge an additional 54 defendants on related state drug and firearms charges as part of the same investigation, dubbed “Operation 602 Exchange.”
A multi-agency law enforcement task force led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Phoenix Police Department, with assistance from the U.S. Marshall’s Service, began arresting suspects in the case early last week. Over its duration, the Operation resulted in the seizure of 223 weapons – including handguns, assault rifles, rifles and sawed-off shotguns, many of them stolen. Agents and officers also seized narcotics, including methamphetamine, “crack” and powder cocaine, prescription medications, marijuana and heroin.
ATF agents and a detective from Phoenix PD culminated the nine-month investigation in January. The agents operated a secondhand merchandise store dealing in military supplies and used electronics, where they purchased guns and narcotics from individuals who came into the store. As with previous successful ATF investigations in other states, the store was equipped with electronic surveillance equipment to capture all of the transactions.
“This operation sends a clear message to criminals: If you endanger the public by trafficking firearms and drugs in our communities, we are coming after you,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke. “When federal, state and local authorities team to fight gun and drug trafficking, your neighborhood is safer. I commend the ATF and the Phoenix Police Department for the incredible work they have done in this highly complex undercover operation and for taking these defendants, their guns and illegal drugs off of our streets.”
Burke added that more defendants could be added to the total, and there are other ongoing investigations that spawned from the operation.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said, “I am committed as Attorney General to making sure that the state charges in this matter are pursued as vigorously as possible. The criminal predators who are trafficking in drugs and weapons are a clear and present danger to our community and their activities – no matter how complex – are not beyond the reach of law enforcement. Criminals are put on notice that no matter how relentless they are in pursuit of their criminal objectives, the Attorney General’s Office, working with the men and women of law enforcement, will be even more dedicated to putting them behind bars. I want to especially thank the ATF and Phoenix Police Department for their hard work on this investigation and I am confident the US Attorney’s Office will be tenacious in its prosecution of the federal charges.”
ATF Special Agent in Charge, William Newell added, “This joint operation with the Phoenix Police Department is clear evidence of ATF’s continued commitment to proactively address the threat of firearms related crime in communities across the country with our State and Local law enforcement partners. We also truly appreciate the support from the U.S. Attorney and Arizona Attorney General in prosecuting these cases.”
“The Phoenix Police Department is committed to aggressively targeting those individuals who traffic in drugs and guns in our community,” said Acting Police Chief Joseph Yahner, Phoenix Police Department. “Working with our state and federal partners, we are able to expand our ability to truly bring these criminals to justice. This cooperative effort has resulted in charges on over one hundred suspects, which will result in the prevention of numerous other crimes.”
Several of the defendants charged included felons previously convicted of crimes such as negligent homicide, kidnapping, child abuse, aggravated assault, and other violent crimes and narcotics offenses. The defendants also include several aliens illegally present in the United States.
Individuals were indicted in Operation 602 Exchange on a total of 160 charges that included: Possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (5 counts), felon in possession of firearms and ammunition (48 counts), conspiracy to possess narcotics with intent to distribute (24 counts), possession of narcotics with intent to distribute (66 counts), possession of unregistered firearms (7 counts), possession of stolen firearms (5 counts), possession of firearms with obliterated serial numbers (4 counts), and illegal re-entry after deportation (1 count).
OPERATION 602 CASE NUMBERS
Alvarez | CR-11-0500-PHX-FJM
Colberly | CR-11-0298-PHX-FJM
Turner |CR-11-0466- PHX-ROS
FLores | CR-11-0510 | PHX- ROS
Grey | CR- 11-0404-PHX-GMS
Taylor, Reyes, Rough| CR-11-0513-PHX DGC
Lewis | CR- 11-0047-PHX-GMS
Randall | CR- 11-0052-PHX-ROS
Terihaj | CR-11-0051- PHX-DGC
Colter | CR-11-0325-PHX-PGR
Willsey | CR-505-PHX-FJM
Matthews | CR-11-0051-PHX