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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Connecticut
Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, September 19, 2023

East Hartford Man Sentenced to 8 Years for Multiple Gun and Drug Offenses

Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that Justin Gay, 27, of East Hartford, was sentenced today by U.S. District Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport to 96 months of imprisonment, followed by five years of supervised release, for multiple gun and drug possession and trafficking offenses.

According to court documents and statements made in court, on July 6, 2016, Gay’s associate, Daniel Vazquez, shot a rival drug dealer who was driving a car at the intersection of Tolland Street and Moore Avenue in East Hartford. Vazquez was arrested on that date, and a search of his residence revealed a Ruger LC93 9mm handgun, which he had used in the shooting, and a Taurus 9mm handgun. The two firearms were traced to Minot, North Dakota.

The investigation revealed that Gay, Vazquez, and others trafficked firearms from North Dakota to Connecticut. In late June 2016, Gay, Vazquez, and others traveled to Minot where they purchased, sometimes with counterfeit currency, firearms from sellers who had advertised the guns for sale on a website. Gay and Vazquez then transported five firearms from North Dakota to Connecticut. Two of these five firearms were found in Vazquez’s residence on July 6, 2016. Several of the trafficked firearms were used in shootings in and around Hartford.

On December 8, 2016, East Hartford Police arrested Gay on state charges after he sold marijuana to an individual and was found in possession of one of the handguns he had obtained in North Dakota.

On September 1, 2019, Gay pleaded guilty in federal court to possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and conspiracy to unlawfully transport firearms in interstate commerce.

On April 30, 2020, Gay, who had been detained while awaiting sentencing, was released on bond due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On June 14, 2021, Gay was arrested after an investigation into drug trafficking by his roommate, Alexander Belen, led to a search of Gay’s vehicle. The search revealed a loaded 9mm handgun fitted with a “sear switch” that made the firearm fully automatic, a separate 50 round drum magazine, another loaded 9mm handgun, and distribution quantities of fentanyl, cocaine, and crack.

On April 20, 2023, Gay pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, receipt of a firearm by a person under indictment, and commission of offenses while on release.

Gay has been detained since June 14, 2021.

On March 5, 2019, Vazquez was sentenced to 84 months of imprisonment.

Belen has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

The gun trafficking investigation was conducted by the ATF and East Hartford Police Department, with the assistance of the Connecticut Department of Correction and the Minot (N.D.) Police Department. The drug trafficking investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Hartford Task Force. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patricia Stolfi Collins and Brendan J. Keefe.

Updated September 19, 2023


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