For Immediate Release
Three Twin Cities Men Arrested, Charged With Operating a Machinegun Distribution Ring on Snapchat
MINNEAPOLIS – Three Twin Cities men have been arrested and charged after law enforcement disrupted a social media-based machinegun distribution ring, announced U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger.
Rafael Carter Wesley, 19, Kyrees Darious Johnson, 23, and Avont Akira Drayton, 22, have been charged in three separate criminal complaints with one count each of unlawful possession of machineguns.
According to court documents, in March 2023, law enforcement became aware of a Snapchat group called “BLICCS&STICCS3.” Law enforcement suspected the group was used to facilitate the trafficking of machineguns, firearms, and controlled substances in the Twin Cities and outlying areas. Law enforcement obtained screenshots and videos of several individuals in the group selling, promoting, and operating machinegun conversion devices (MCD) that convert a semi-automatic firearm—either a pistol or a rifle—into a fully automatic machinegun. These devices are classified as machineguns and are regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA).
According to court documents, on March 20, 2023, an undercover law enforcement officer began monitoring the group. The undercover officer posted a picture of prop firearm to the BLICCS&STICCS3 group. Shortly thereafter, a user of the group, later identified as Wesley, reached out to the undercover officer and asked if he wanted to trade the firearm for what is commonly referred to as a Glock “switch” or a “button.” On or about March 26, 2023, the undercover officer continued conversations with Wesley on Snapchat about potentially purchasing Glock “switches.” Wesley indicated “switches” would cost $700 for two or $900 for three. The undercover officer agreed to purchase three switches for $900 and indicated he would pay an extra $100 if Wesley drove up to St. Cloud to deliver the switches. On March 27, 2023, Wesley met the undercover officer in St. Cloud and sold him three switches for $1,000.
On April 4, 2023, a second transaction was arranged through Wesley with a St. Paul meeting location. Wesley and another member of the BLICCS&STICCS3 Snapchat group—later confirmed to be Johnson—sold an additional three switches to the undercover officer for $900.
On April 13, 2023, undercover officers met with Wesley in Minneapolis to purchase an unserialized Glock 17 for $700. Following the transaction, the undercover officers asked Wesley to install the switch previously purchased from Wesley onto the Glock 17. Wesley agreed and installed the switch.
That same day, Wesley separately coordinated a meeting during which undercover officers met with Drayton, another member of the BLICCS&STICCS3 Snapchat group, to purchase a 3D-printed drop-in MCD for an AR-style rifle for $550. During the transaction, Drayton showed the undercover officers a video on his phone of Drayton shooting a firearm with a drop-in MCD inserted. Drayton commented to the undercover officers that the drop-in made the firearm shoot “way too [expletive] fast.” On May 11, 2023, an undercover officer directly arranged to meet with Drayton at a location in Eagan to purchase two drop-in MCDs for $800. However, when Drayton arrived at the meeting location, he stated that he had only had one MCD and sold it to the undercover officer for $400. On June 9, 2023, undercover officers again met with Drayton and purchased a Glock pistol and a “switch” for $1,300.
According to court documents, between March and June 2023, undercover law enforcement officers conducted approximately six controlled buys with multiple members of the BLICCS&STICCS3 group.
According to court documents, Johnson is prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition at any time because he has prior felony convictions and both Wesley and Drayton are subject to court-imposed restrictions that prohibit them from possessing firearms.
Johnson and Drayton made their initial appearances in today in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge John F. Docherty. Wesley made his initial appearance on September 14, 2023.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Central Minnesota Violent Offender Task Force, the St. Paul Police Department, the Minneapolis Police Department, and the Dakota County Drug Task Force.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan L. Sing is prosecuting the case.
A complaint is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.