Friday, July 8, 2011

49 Indicted and 373 Guns Seized in "Operation ATL Blaze"

On July 29, an operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Atlanta Police Department (APD) led to the indictment of 49 individuals on firearms, drug tracking and theft charges related to a storefront sting operation. During the seven-month operation, federal authorities and Atlanta police recovered 257 handguns, 60 rifles, 46 shotguns and 10 sawed-off shotguns.

"This undercover operation was strategically aimed at felons and violent criminals who are flooding our streets with illegal guns," said Sally Quillian Yates, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. "ATF, working together with APD, operated an authentic-looking fencing operation that succeeded in taking almost 400 firearms from the hands of criminals. This was a proactive, not reactive, approach to law enforcement to get guns out of the hands of criminals."

The operation adopted the name "ATL Blaze" from a store in Southwest Atlanta that posed as a smoke shop, selling clothing, tobacco and tobacco-related products. Instead, it was a front for an operation led by ATF. Undercover agents, posing as store managers and employees, began telling those on the street they were interested in purchasing firearms and weapons. Weapons traffickers, drug traffickers and convicted felons approached the undercover agents about purchasing guns, drugs and other stolen property.

Many of the guns purchased by the undercover agents had been stolen from cars and homes.

Those arrested were indicted on various federal and state charges including: conspiracy to unlawfully deal in firearms, conspiracy to committee a home invasion robbery, possession of an unregister sawed-off rifle, possession of a stole firearm, possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute, aggravated identity theft, theft by receiving stolen property, drug trafficking, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
By last Wednesday, 27 of the 49 charged had been arrested.

The case is being investigated by ATF and APD with assistance from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Social Security Administration. Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey Brown, Phyllis Clerk, Brent Grey, Nekia Hackworth, Teresa Hoyt, Joshua Plummer, Greg Radics, Stephanie Gabay-Smith and Jill Steinberg are prosecuting the cases.

ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division Gregory Gant said, "Operation ‘ATL Blaze' was a bold joint operation designed to protect our communities by removing violent criminals involved in armed drug trafficking and the unlawful use and possession of firearms in the city of Atlanta... This aggressive law enforcement collaboration sends a clear message that those individuals who threaten the very fabric of our communities will be dealt with."


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