A Georgia man has been charged with trafficking multiple firearms from Georgia to Jersey City, which were subsequently used in acts of violence, according U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
Special agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) arrested Jonathan Brown, 26, of Covington, Ga., on May 6 in Covington. He is charged with conspiracy to commit the unlicensed sale of firearms which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
From Georgia to Jersey City
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Brown allegedly led a scheme to purchase firearms in or around Georgia and traffic those firearms to individuals in Jersey City.
Brown, who is barred from purchasing firearms himself due to multiple prior felony convictions, allegedly used straw purchasers in Georgia to obtain the firearms so that he could allegedly sell those firearms to others.
On multiple occasions, Brown allegedly brought firearms from Georgia to New Jersey for sale.
According to ATF Special Agent Cyril Pereira in August and September 2019, two straw purchasers allegedly bought multiple firearms from lawful firearm sellers in Georgia allegedly on behalf of Brown. Within days of the purchases, Brown traveled to Jersey City.
During the investigation, law enforcement received a search warrant to review Brown’s Instagram account records, which included communications relating to the purchase and sale of these weapons
In one detailed conversation in January an Instagram user asked Brown if he was visiting soon and Brown asked “you tryna put in a order?” and “what you looking for??? Like in particular”
The user responded “Compact shit” asking for at two or three at the most.
‘My sister ’bout to come up there soon’
“Aight I only got 1 of them right now. And my sister bout to come up there soon. Let me see if I could get my hands on some more before she leave from down here.”
According to the special agent, they were allegedly referring to compact sized handguns.
Within months of Brown’s trips to Jersey City, law enforcement arrested numerous individuals in Jersey City in possession of firearms allegedly purchased by Brown’s straw purchasers.
According to the complaint, On Oct. 12, 2019, law enforcement arrested Hasan Mosby after he allegedly used a firearm, which was allegedly purchased by one of Brown’s straw purchasers, in a shooting of another person in Jersey City. Mosby had a prior felony conviction at the time of his arrest.
On January 19, 2020, law enforcement arrested Darby Shirden, who allegedly had in his possession a loaded firearm that was also allegedly purchased by one of Brown’s straw purchasers.
Shirden was arrested a few block away from where shots were fired, according to the complaint.
The complaint further states that on January 29, 2020, law enforcement arrested Naikyll Bell who was allegedly in possession of a loaded firearm that was allegedly purchased by one of Brown’s straw purchasers, and on March 30 2020 law enforcement arrested Jawon Lesuer who was allegedly in possession of a loaded firearm, allegedly purchased by one of Brown’s straw purchasers.
In total, law enforcement alleges that Brown unlawfully obtained at least 21 firearms.
To date, law enforcement has recovered approximately seven of those firearms in Jersey City.
A group effort
The investigation was conducted as part of the Jersey City Violent Crime Initiative (VCI).
The VCI was formed in 2018 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Jersey City Police Department, for the purpose of combating violent crime in and around Jersey City.
As part of this partnership, federal, state, county, and city agencies collaborate to strategize and prioritize the prosecution of violent offenders who endanger the safety of the community.
This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws, initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019.
Project Guardian aims to reduce gun violence; enhance coordination of federal, state, local and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improve information sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensure that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to communities.
Carpenito credited special agents of the ATF, Newark Field Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson, as well as the Jersey City Police Department, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, the ATF Atlanta Field Division, and the Newton County, Georgia, Sheriff’s office, with the investigation leading to the charges and arrest.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Macurdy and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Travers of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.
Jonathan Brown is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.