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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Eastern District of California
For Immediate Release
Phillip A. Talbert, United States Attorney
www.justice.gov/usao-edca
Thursday, March 24, 2022

Five Arrested in Firearms Trafficking Conspiracy Involving 500+ Firearms Shipped From Georgia to California, Sold on Black Market in California

A federal grand jury indicted five individuals today charging them with a conspiracy to bring firearms from Georgia to California in order to sell them on the black market, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

On March 11, 2022, the five defendants were arrested. They are Jerrell Lawson, 31, of Sacramento; Aisha Hoggatt, 29, of Sacramento; Malek Williams, 28, of Atlanta, Georgia; Terrence Phillips, 39, of Union City; and James Gordley, 32, of Modesto.

All five defendants are charged with conspiracy to unlawfully deal in firearms and unlawful dealing in firearms for their part in this firearms trafficking scheme. 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 is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

According to the criminal complaint, between November 2019 and October 2021, Lawson and his co-conspirators purchased over 500 firearms for more than $162,000. Lawson would broker firearms transactions in Georgia over the internet, and Williams, a Georgia resident with a license to carry a concealed firearm, would pick up firearms in person and mail the firearms to various locations in California at Lawson’s direction. Some of the firearms went to individuals that are prohibited from possessing firearms due to prior felony convictions. Hoggatt worked with Lawson to coordinate the purchase, mailing, and distribution of the firearms. Phillips and Gordley also distributed the firearms in California.

The investigation began when a firearm used in a shooting in Sacramento was traced to the last known sale by a federally licensed dealer in Georgia. A subsequent sale of the firearm led to Lawson’s organization. Lawson and his co-conspirators used coded language to traffic firearms and moved money using a variety of financial institutions. During the investigation, interdicted packages destined for Lawson and other co-conspirators were found to contain firearms, ammunition, knives, and brass knuckles, among other things.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Sacramento Region/ San Francisco Bay Area Cross-Jurisdictional Firearms Trafficking Strike Force Initiative. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ross Pearson, Justin Lee, and Alexis Klein are prosecuting the case.

If convicted, the defendants face the following maximum penalties: five years in prison on each count for conspiracy to unlawfully deal in firearms, unlawful dealing in firearms and transferring a firearm to an out-of-state resident, and two years in prison on each count for unlawful mailing of a firearm. Lawson faces an additional maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

This case is being prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

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