230 Weapons Seized in U.S. Gun-Trafficking Investigation
Attorney General Paula Dow announced charges against nine defendants in three separate cases resulting from a joint State Police-federal investigation. More than 200 guns were seized in investigations, including machine gun, grenade launcher, assault weap
The Star-Leger via YellowBrix
May 28, 2010
TRENTON — Tracey Crews was planning to tuck his toddler daughter into bed when the bullet pierced his neck. When police arrived, he was lying in the street outside his Trenton home as his wife frantically tried to stop the bleeding.
Although the September 2008 slaying has never been solved, authorities said Wednesday they arrested the man responsible for putting the 9-mm pistol in the killer’s hands.
Police said Trayle Beasley, 29, traded drugs for guns in small-town Virginia, using childhood friends there to obtain weapons he later sold to drug dealers and gang members in Trenton.
“They really didn’t care how these deadly weapons were being used,” Attorney General Paula Dow said. “What they wanted to do was turn a quick profit.”
Beasley’s indictment was one of three that state and federal authorities announced Wednesday. While unrelated, all stem from a partnership between the State Police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives to trace weapons recovered in New Jersey. Officials said the task force has seized more than 230 weapons in the last two years, including nine assault weapons, a machine gun and even a grenade launcher.
The partnership enables complex investigations linking multiple guns to individual traffickers, especially when purchases are made in states with looser gun laws, officials said.
In Beasley’s case, police said he was a target early on — the Trenton-area resident had already served prison time in Maryland on weapons charges when police there found five guns in his car in 2008.
Beasley grew up on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a rural peninsula separated from the rest of the state by the Chesapeake Bay. Police said he used his connections there for a scheme driven by pure supply and demand: New Jersey had the drugs, Virginia the guns. So Beasley would drive south with marijuana, money or other drugs, trade for guns, and bring the weapons back to New Jersey, detectives said.
To build their case, two New Jersey cops — State Police Detective Sgt. Eric Barlow and Trenton Detective Gary Britton — made 16 trips to Virginia over the course of a year. Britton doesn’t like to fly, so the two drove, chatting about their daughters’ soccer games and stopping for crab cakes at a local restaurant.
The guns they were tracing often changed hands several times before Beasley got them. Some were stolen, others were purchased secondhand or from stores, Barlow said. To connect the dots, the detectives worked with other New Jersey officers, ATF agents and Virginia police to interview residents, friends and local prison inmates.
Beasley’s indictment links him to 12 weapons, including the 9 mm handgun used in Crews’ killing and the five weapons authorities said he was caught with in Maryland. Police said other guns were taken from suspects and crime scenes. One was found in a bag on the street.
But Beasley may be responsible for much more than that, authorities said. Detectives believe he made round-trips to Virginia twice a month, bringing four or five guns each time.
“You do the math,” Britton said. “It’s in excess of 200 guns.”
Beasley was arrested in Trenton in March and is being held in Mercer County’s jail. If he’s convicted of leading a gun-trafficking network, he faces up to 20 years in prison. Arrest warrants have been issued for four other indicted suspects: Amoi Smith, 21, of Cranbury and three Virginia men.
In the second indictment announced Wednesday, a U.S. soldier is accused of buying handguns in Texas and illegally transferring them to people in New Jersey. Officials said the soldier, William Ivery, 30, mailed one gun to Burlington County, where two people, one of them a convicted felon, picked it up.
Police arrested Ivery, who was stationed at Fort Dix, Wednesday night and charged him with weapons possession and conspiracy. The other two people — Abdul Smith, 28, of Trenton and Ronald Blakely Jr., 29, of Hamilton — also were arrested on weapons charges.
The third indictment named Horace Dixon Jr., 49, of Glassboro, who officials said sold an undercover State Police detective four guns last summer. Authorities arrested Dixon in a bowling alley parking lot on Aug. 13 and searched his home, finding the grenade launcher and more than 60 guns, including the belt-fed machine gun.
“I wish I could say it’s a joke,” state Criminal Justice Director Stephen Taylor said.
Police suspect many of Dixon’s weapons were purchased at gun shows in Pennsylvania, the top source for out-of-state weapons found in New Jersey.