NEW JERSEY – A wave of 35 indictments secured by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice in just over two months charging numerous defendants with illegal gun trafficking and/or possession of illicit weapons, including untraceable ghost guns, assault rifles, and outlawed large-capacity ammunition magazines, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced Thursday.
Ghost guns are not registered and do not have serial numbers, making them difficult to trace and making it harder for law enforcement to solve gun crimes, Grewal said.
The indictments charge a total of 81 defendants, a majority of whom face various weapons offenses in connection with the following illegal weapons seized in the investigations:
- 96 illegal guns, including
- 16 assault rifles and
- 1 machine gun;
- 53 illegal large-capacity ammunition magazines.
The illegal guns include a total of 10 Ghost Guns that do not bear federally registered serial numbers. Most of the guns traced in these cases were purchased in various states other than New Jersey, including Pennsylvania, which was the source of at least 18 guns, and South Carolina, which was the source of at least 12 guns, as well as Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, among others.
Five of the indictments charge defendants with illegally trafficking guns. The others charge possession of illegal weapons by other alleged criminals, including individuals charged with using guns in violent crimes, alleged drug dealers, an alleged human trafficker, and a fugitive charged with credit card fraud. Thirty-four of the indictments stem from investigations conducted between January 2019 and February 2021, with most charging conduct in 2020 and 2021. One case dates to 2018.
The Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey State Police consistently join with other law enforcement partners to conduct strategic investigations focused on disrupting the supply-line of weapons trafficking into violent areas, arresting drug dealers and seizing existing weapons in those areas, and aggressively prosecuting all defendants who traffic, use, or possess guns in connection with criminal activity.
“We are aggressively targeting those responsible for the proliferation of guns and gun violence in our communities, including gun traffickers, drug dealers, and other criminals who arm themselves with illegal weapons,” Grewal said. “Assault rifles have long been a weapon of choice for gangs and drug dealers, and more recently there has been an alarming increase in untraceable ghost guns, which often are seized by police after they have been used in a shooting. By focusing on illegal guns, working to shut down the iron pipeline of firearms from other states, and prosecuting offenders under New Jersey’s tough gun laws, we are taking guns and armed criminals off of the street—and undoubtedly saving lives.”
“These 35 indictments are the product of strong collaboration by the Division of Criminal Justice and law enforcement agencies at all levels, all across New Jersey and into states such as Pennsylvania and South Carolina, which were source states for guns allegedly sold by certain defendants,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “By cracking down on gun traffickers, armed drug dealers, and others with illegal weapons, we are working to reduce the gun violence and drug dealing that are claiming far too many lives in New Jersey and are undermining the safety and security of our communities. I commend our Gangs and Organized Crime Bureau, Specialized Crimes Bureau, the New Jersey State Police, and all of our law enforcement partners for these outstanding results.”
“Illegal weapons trafficking has unfortunately evolved over time. The proliferation of ghost guns, which can be assembled from parts originating from across the country, has made it more difficult to solve violent crimes and disrupt trafficking networks, but fortunately law enforcement has evolved at a much faster rate by utilizing state-of-art investigative techniques and employing massive multi-jurisdictional collaborations, which are directly responsible for today’s indictments and the seizure of nearly 100 guns,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We will continue to work with our partners to combat not only the trafficking of illegal weapons, but to also disrupt the assembly and sale of ghost guns both in New Jersey and across the country.”
The 35 state grand jury indictments charge the defendants with offenses ranging from unlawful possession and disposition of handguns, assault weapons, and machine guns to leader of a firearms trafficking network, and also include charges of unlawful transportation of firearms into the state; charges related to the unlawful purchase, manufacture, transportation, and possession of ghost gun parts and ghost guns; unlawful possession of defaced weapons; unlawful possession of weapons during commission of narcotics offenses; unlawful possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines: unlawful possession of illegal hollow-point bullets; and unlawful possession of weapons by convicted felons. Many of the charges carry Graves Act penalties requiring mandatory periods of parole ineligibility of up to five years. As detailed below, two of the guns that were seized have been linked to shootings, including a homicide.
The following cases illustrate the range of the investigations:
Michael Maresca, et al.
Michael Maresca, 32, of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., allegedly trafficked ghost guns in the area of Paterson, N.J. He was indicted with two other men—Robert Moser, 49, of Depauw, Indiana, and Maken Cornell, 52, of Grove City, Ohio—for allegedly conspiring to purchase assault rifle kits, ghost gun parts, and outlawed large-capacity magazines and have them shipped to New Jersey, where Maresca allegedly assembled the illegal guns and sold them. During the investigation, in October and November 2020, five ghost guns and two assault rifles were seized. Maresca allegedly sold two ghost guns to an undercover officer, including one that was equipped with an illegal 15-round magazine loaded with prohibited hollow-point bullets.
Henry Kidd Jr., Javar Kidd, and Terrance Alford
Two Trenton men, Javar Kidd, 32, and Terrance Alford, 46, were indicted along with Kidd’s uncle Henry Kidd Jr., 51, of Hayneville Alabama, on charges that they conspired to transport weapons into New Jersey from South Carolina for illegal sale or transfer to criminals in and around Trenton. Nine handguns and four illegal large-capacity magazines were seized during the investigation in October 2020. Henry Kidd Jr. is charged with first-degree promoting organized street crime.
Four defendants, including Robert Crosley III, 34, aka “Zombie,” and Matthew Zoba, 40, both of Philadelphia, were indicted on charges that they conspired to run a major Philadelphia-based gun trafficking ring that illegally trafficked guns and methamphetamine into Camden, N.J. They are charged in connection with 22 illegal firearms seized during the investigation—including four assault rifles—as well as seven illegal large-capacity magazines. Between March 2019 and January 2020, they allegedly sold 16 guns in the Camden area during the investigation, including a 9mm handgun linked to a shooting in Philadelphia in which no one was hit, as well as a semi-automatic rifle linked to the Oct. 20, 2019 murder of 2-year-old Nikolette Rivera, who was shot as her mother held her in her arms in their home in Philadelphia. Crosley and Zoba are both charged with first-degree promoting organized street crime.
Enrique “Neff” Alfonso
Enrique “Neff” Alfonso, 28, of Camden, N.J., allegedly used a popular social networking service to conduct illegal firearms sales in the Camden area. Between February and May 2020, he allegedly sold an assault rifle, five handguns, another rifle, and three illegal large-capacity magazines. He is charged in a 17-count indictment with numerous weapons offenses, including possession of a weapon as a convicted felon, which carries a mandatory minimum prison term of five years without parole upon conviction.
Christopher J. Pespas
Christopher J. Pespas, 74, of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., was indicted on charges that he was purchasing parts for “ghost gun” assault rifles on the internet, along with illegal large-capacity magazines. Investigators executed a search warrant at his residence in August 2019 and seized parts that could be assembled to make three assault rifles—all “ghost guns.”
Isiah Greene and Jamal Bethea
Isiah Greene, 29, and Jamal Bethea, 32, of Trenton, N.J., alleged members of the Sanhican Drive Boys gang, allegedly engaged in a shootout on Feb. 12, 2020 with two members of the Get Money Boys gang, Shaiquan Hearns and Dion Battle. Greene allegedly fired from a vehicle driven by Bethea. No one on either side of the shootout was hit, but Bethea crashed the vehicle, and Bethea and Greene fled. Greene allegedly hid the gun in the backyard of a residence. Greene and Bethea were indicted on first-degree charges of conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder, among other offenses. Hearns and Battle were previously charged by the Division of Criminal Justice with two counts of attempted murder—one count for firing at Greene and Bethea, and another for firing at a police officer who pursued their vehicle after the shootout.
Peter Santos and Joshua Perez
Peter A. Santos, 22, and Joshua M. Perez, 22, of Trenton, N.J., allegedly pistol-whipped a victim with a handgun and robbed him of his wallet in Trenton on Jan. 24, 2021. A subsequent search of a hotel room rented by Perez revealed a second handgun loaded with illegal hollow-point bullets. Both men were indicted on charges of first-degree robbery, as well as aggravated assault and weapons offenses.
The 35 state grand jury indictments can be viewed here.
First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000, while second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The sentence for promoting organized street crime must be served consecutively to the sentence for any underlying offense. The second-degree charge of transporting firearms into the state for illegal sale carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed. Possession of a weapon as a convicted felon carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility of five years. The second-degree charge of unlawful possession of a handgun carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility equal to one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed or 3 ½ years, whichever is greater. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 ($35,000 for drug charges), while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The following law enforcement agencies that investigated the cases in collaboration with the Division of Criminal Justice:
- New Jersey State Police
- Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office
- Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force
- S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives
- S. Drug Enforcement Administration
- S. Homeland Security Investigations
- S. Marshals Service NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force
- S. Postal Inspection Service
- S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General
- Atlantic City Police Department
- Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office
- Atlantic City Task Force
- Barnegat Township Police Department
- Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office
- Bensalem Township (Pa.) Police Department
- Camden County Police Department
- Camden County Prosecutor’s Office
- Camden County Sheriff’s Office
- Cliffside Park Police Department
- Egg Harbor Township Police Department
- Ewing Police Department
- Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office
- Gloucester Township Police Department
- Hamilton Township (Mercer County) Police Division
- Harrison Police Department
- Hasbrouck Heights Police Department
- Howell Township Police Department
- Hudson County Sheriff’s Office
- Irvington Police Department
- Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office
- Middletown Township Police Department
- Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office
- Moorestown Police Department
- Morris County Prosecutor’s Office
- Morris County Sheriff’s Office
- Morris Plains Police Department
- Nassau County (N.Y.) District Attorney’s Office
- Neptune City Police Department
- Neptune Township Police Department
- Newark Police Department
- Nutley Police Department
- Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office
- Ocean County Sheriff’s Department
- Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office
- Passaic County Sheriff’s Office
- Paterson Police Department
- Philadelphia Police Department
- Ramsey Police Department
- South Toms River Police Department
- Toms River Police Department
- Trenton Police Department
- Voorhees Township Police Department
- Wall Township Police Department
- Winslow Township Police Department