For Immediate Release
Indictment Charges Connecticut, Kansas, and California Men With Operating Gun Trafficking Ring
An investigation into an organization that trafficked numerous firearms into Connecticut has resulted in federal charges against residents of Connecticut, Kansas, and California.
Today’s announcement was made by Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut; Robert Fuller, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; James Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge, ATF Boston Field Division; Michael J. Krol, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New England; and Ketty Larco-Ward, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division.
On May 31, 2023, a federal grand jury in Hartford returned a 19-count indictment charging the following men with engaging in a firearms trafficking conspiracy, and additional offenses:
LUIS PEREZ, 44, of Waterbury, Connecticut
ALGELLY DIAZ, 40, of Hartford, Connecticut
BRIAN BAKER, 46, of Scott City, Kansas
RAMON PICHARDO, 33, of Elkhart, Kansas
ERNANDO SOTO, JR., 51, of Diamond Bar, California
U.S. Attorney Avery noted that this case is being prosecuted, in part, under the new criminal provisions of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which Congress enacted and the President signed in June 2022. The Act is the first federal statute specifically designed to target the unlawful trafficking and straw-purchasing of firearms.
As alleged in court documents and statements made in court, a joint investigation revealed that Perez was acquiring firearms that were purchased by co-conspirators in Kansas and shipped through the U.S. Mail to a stash location that Diaz maintained in Hartford. Perez coordinated the purchase of the firearms through Baker in Kansas and Soto in California. Perez then obtained the firearms from Diaz and sold them to others throughout Connecticut. Perez, Diaz, Baker, and Soto are all convicted felons who cannot not lawfully purchase or possess firearms. Baker used straw purchasers, including Pichardo, to purchase firearms from licensed gun dealers in Kansas. In May 2023, members of the FBI Waterbury Safe Streets Task Force conducted controlled purchases of a total of nine firearms from Perez.
It is further alleged that between August 2020 and May 2023, Pichardo purchased at least 73 firearms from a licensed gun dealer in Deerfield, Kansas. To date, six of these firearms have been recovered by law enforcement in Connecticut, Michigan, and California. A firearm purchased by Pichardo in July 2022 was recovered on August 27, 2022, in San Bernardino, California, at the scene of the homicide of a juvenile.
Perez, Diaz, Baker, and Pichardo were arrested on federal criminal complaints on May 19, 2023. On that date, investigators executed search warrants at locations in Connecticut, Kansas, and California. A search of Perez’s Waterbury residence and vehicle revealed nine firearms; more than 200 rounds of ammunition; distribution quantities of cocaine, crack cocaine, and fentanyl/heroin; items used to process and package narcotics for street sale; and more than $7,000 in cash. A search of Diaz’s residence revealed approximately 90 rounds of ammunition, and a search of Pichardo’s residence revealed six firearms. In addition, a court-authorized search of a package that was shipped to Diaz and seized from the mail stream revealed an additional three firearms.
The charge of engaging in a firearms trafficking conspiracy carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years. The indictment also charges Perez, Baker, and Diaz with multiple counts of firearms trafficking, an offense that also carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years. In addition, Perez, Baker, and Soto are charged with unlawfully mailing firearms, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of two years.
The indictment also charges Perez with unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of at least five years; possession with intent to distribute, and distribution of, cocaine, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years; and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and quantities of heroin and fentanyl, which carries a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five years and a maximum term of imprisonment of 40 years.
In addition, Diaz is charged with unlawful possession of ammunition by a felon, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years.
Perez, Diaz, and Pichardo appeared yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Spector in New Haven and entered pleas of not guilty to the charges against them. Perez and Diaz are detained, and Pichardo is released on a $25,000 bond.
Soto, who was arrested on June 5 and currently released on a $60,000 bond, and Baker, who is detained, are scheduled to be arraigned in Connecticut on June 16.
U.S. Attorney Avery stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. A charge is only an allegation, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Waterbury Police Department, the Connecticut State Police, and the Chino (Calif.) Police Department.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Natasha M. Freismuth through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations through a prosecutor-led and intelligence-driven approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
U.S. Attorney Avery thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan for their assistance in the investigation and prosecution of this case.