For Immediate Release
Four Defendants Indicted in Interstate Gun Trafficking Scheme
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, John B. DeVito, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”), and Keechant L. Sewell, Police Commissioner for the City of New York (NYPD), announced that ABOUDULAYE KEITA, a/k/a “Abdoulaye,” MARQUISE DESHAUN AUSTIN, CEDRIC KEYON CHRISTOPHER, JR., and JAILYN HILLIARD were indicted yesterday with conspiracy to commit firearms offenses and gun trafficking, in connection with their involvement in a scheme to illegally obtain and transport firearms from Arkansas for resale to residents of New York. KEITA was also charged with interstate travel with intent to engage in gun trafficking. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska.
AUSTIN was arrested on March 11, 2022 in Arkansas and the complaint charging AUSTIN was unsealed yesterday in the Southern District of New York. CHRISTOPHER and HILLIARD were charged by complaint and arrested last month in Arkansas. KEITA is in state custody on unrelated charges and is expected to be transferred into federal custody.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, the defendants are responsible for trafficking dozens of guns across state lines, including guns that were later used to commit violent acts extending all the way from Arkansas to New York. Let today’s arrests make clear that we will not tolerate gun traffickers and the devastating harm they inflict on our communities.”
ATF Special Agent-in-Charge John DeVito said: “People who flood illegal guns on our streets are drivers of violent crime and put communities in danger. This case highlights how ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network is a crucial tool in the investigation and prosecution of gun crimes because it connects individual firearms to the violent criminal offenses in which they are used. ATF will continue to work with our partners to identify and disrupt the schemes used to put illegal firearms into the hands of violent criminals and on our streets. Thank you to the partnership and hard work of the men and women of Little Rock Police Department’s Gun Crimes Unit and ATF NY’s Crime Gun Intelligence Center.”
NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said: “The interstate flow of illegal guns into New York City is a grave threat to the public safety of everyone we serve. Each gun seized is another step forward in our tireless pursuit to rid our streets of these deadly weapons – and anyone who traffics them must be held fully accountable. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the ATF’s New York Field Division, and all of our law-enforcement partners who worked on this critical case.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment and the Complaints:
From at least October 2020 through December 2021, the defendants and others conspired to illegally purchase and traffic firearms across state lines. AUSTIN, CHRISTOPHER and HILLIARD each acted as straw purchasers to buy firearms from licensed gun shops in Arkansas—a total of at least 73 firearms—and then sold these firearms illegally to KEITA and others with the understanding the firearms would then be transported to New York. To date, nine of the defendants’ firearms have been recovered in the Bronx and Brooklyn, in addition to six recoveries in California and five in Arkansas.
Through lead information collected and maintained by the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), casings from the recovered firearms have been connected to a shooting that took place in the Bronx on June 20, 2021 and shootings that took place in Harlem on July 5, 2021 and October 6, 2021. Casings from one firearm recovered in Arkansas were found at the scene of a September 3, 2021 homicide in Little Rock.
KEITA, AUSTIN, CHRISTOPHER, and HILLIARD are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit firearms offenses, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and one count of gun trafficking, which also carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. KEITA is also charged with one count of interstate travel with intent to commit gun trafficking, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.
The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the ATF and the NYPD. Mr. Williams also thanked local law enforcement partners in Arkansas, the ATF’s Little Rock Field Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Arkansas for their assistance.
This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Jane Y. Chong is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.