TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that six Newark men were indicted today on charges that they illegally trafficked 10 guns during an undercover investigation by the New Jersey State Police, including two stolen guns, an illegal assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine, and prohibited hollow-point bullets.
The Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau obtained a state grand jury indictment charging the following men, all residents of Newark, with conspiracy and unlawful possession of a weapon, among other charges:
- Issac Torres-Zambrano, 20,
- George Wright, 47,
- Asmar Speight, 31,
- Jabrill Lewis, 25,
- Shamir Brown, 30, and
- Quadir Whitehead, 20.
All of the defendants except Whitehead face second-degree conspiracy and weapons charges. Those charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, and the second-degree weapons charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 ½ years without parole. Whitehead faces third-degree conspiracy and weapons charges, which carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison. Wright, Speight and Brown each face a charge of second-degree possession of a gun as a convicted felon, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in state prison without parole. Speight also faces a first-degree charge of possession of a weapon as a convicted felon, because he previously was convicted of aggravated assault. That charge carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison. The defendants also face various other third- and fourth-degree weapons charges.
“Gun traffickers who indiscriminately sell illegal weapons, as these men allegedly did, are directly responsible for the deadly firepower killing and maiming far too many on the streets of Newark,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Just last week, I announced an important new initiative in Newark – TIDE-TAG – involving all levels of law enforcement to crack down on violent offenders who carry guns in public. That initiative goes hand-in-hand with aggressive investigations and prosecutions of this type which seek to cut off the supply-line of illicit weapons.”
“Through our partnership with the New Jersey State Police to target illegal weapons trafficking, we have indicted more than 100 defendants during the past two years in connection with hundreds of illegal guns,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to do all we can to protect the public by removing illegal guns and gun traffickers from our communities.”
“We will continue to intensify our efforts in disrupting illegal weapons trafficking in Newark,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Our participation in the TIDE-TAG initiative demonstrates our commitment to protecting our communities from senseless acts of gun violence.”
The charges are the result of an undercover investigation by the New Jersey State Police Weapons Trafficking North Unit. Torres-Zambrano and Wright allegedly orchestrated illegal sales of weapons on five occasions between Sept. 11 and Oct. 2, 2013, involving 10 guns:
- an SKS assault rifle with an illegal high-capacity magazine;
- 3 handguns, including a stolen .44-caliber revolver and two semi-automatic handguns;
- Four shotguns, including a stolen double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun;
- and two hunting rifles.
All of the guns were sold to an undercover operative working with the New Jersey State Police. Speight, Brown and Lewis allegedly assisted in the sale on Sept. 11 of two handguns, including the stolen handgun. Whitehead allegedly participated in the sale on Sept. 18 of a shotgun and a 30-06 hunting rifle. Four of the sales occurred in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant in Newark, and one sale allegedly occurred outside Wright’s house.
Deputy Attorney General Shontae D. Gray presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
The indictment returned today is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Essex County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear at a later date to be arraigned on the charges.
The six defendants charged in this indictment will be subject to the strict prosecution guidelines that Acting Attorney General Hoffman has mandated under the new TAG program.
On April 16, Acting Attorney General Hoffman announced the implementation in Newark and Essex County of TIDE-TAG, a strategy led by the New Jersey State Police and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office that will deploy more state troopers and other law enforcement personnel under TIDE to suppress shootings in the most violent neighborhoods of Newark, while focusing efforts on arresting and aggressively prosecuting gang members, repeat offenders and drug dealers who carry guns in public. Under the TAG program, which applies countywide, the Attorney General has mandated that prosecutors will make no plea offer that is less than a minimum 3 ½ years without parole to a “tagged” offender charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. He is prohibiting the common practice of pleading out gun cases for a reduced sentence of one year without parole.
The TAG designation applies to any defendant charged with unlawful possession of a gun in public, including in a car, if any one of the following criteria is met: the defendant has a prior felony conviction; there is a substantial likelihood the defendant is involved in organized criminal activity such as a gang or drug set; the defendant has a pending indictable charge; the defendant possessed the gun while committing a drug offense; the defendant brandished or discharged the gun in public; the gun is stolen or has a defaced serial number; or the defendant resisted arrest or attempted to flee from police.