5 charged in Georgia-to-California black market gun scheme

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Five people illegally trafficked more than 500 guns from Georgia to California, where they would sell them on the black market, for more than $160,000 over nearly two years, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The federal investigation began after authorities discovered that a gun used in a Sacramento, California, shooting was traced to Georgia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento said in a news release.

A federal grand jury indicted the group Thursday after their arrests on March 11. All five are charged with conspiracy to unlawfully deal in firearms and unlawful dealing in firearms.

The defendants are: Jerrell Lawson, 31, of Sacramento, California; Aisha Hoggatt, 29, of Sacramento; Malek Williams, 28, of Atlanta; Terrence Phillips, 39, of Union City, California; and James Gordley, 32, of Modesto, California. It was not immediately clear whether they had attorneys who could speak on their behalf.

Lawson, Hoggatt, Williams and Phillips are also charged with transferring a firearm to an out-of-state resident and unlawful mailing of a firearm. Lawson faces an additional charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The sale of the firearm in the Sacramento shooting led investigators to Lawson, officials said. Between November 2019 and October 2021, Lawson allegedly would broker firearms purchases in Georgia online and Williams — who had a license to carry a concealed weapon — would pick up the guns and mail them to California.

Some of the guns went to people who are barred from possessing firearms because of prior felony convictions, authorities said.

Hoggatt allegedly worked with Lawson to coordinate the front-end of the scheme, while Phillips and Gordley allegedly distributed the guns in California.

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