Just over two years ago, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced the creation of the Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau to work diligently to suppress violent crime in Queens by identifying and prosecuting drivers of violence engaged in organized criminal behavior, including members of street gangs, narcotics operations and firearms dealers.
“As your district attorney, I promised to do everything possible to rid our neighborhoods of violent gangs, gun runners and drug traffickers,” Katz said on June 22, 2020. “My Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau will stomp out crews that profit from selling instruments if death occurs in our communities.”
Just over two years later, Katz held a joint press conference with NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, to announce she had brought charges in Queens Criminal Court against five members allegedly involved in a gun trafficking ring using the notorious Iron Pipeline to smuggle illegal firearms purchased in Knoxville, Tennessee, which were then sold illegally in Queens.
The 1,611-count indictment is the largest illegal gun case the Queens DA has ever brought, and it capped an 11-month-long investigation by her Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau and the NYPD’s Firearms Investigation Unit that began with a tip from a resident of Springfield Gardens and charges of criminal possession of a weapon, criminal sale of a firearm and other crimes, with the top count carrying a maximum sentence of up to 50 years in prison, if convicted. Katz stood over a cache of weapons that were confiscated.
“You see 182 recovered firearms, 136 high-capacity magazines as well as rounds of ammunition, all of which were brought here from the state of Tennessee and would have likely ended up in the wrong hands if it wasn’t for the proactive actions of the New York City Police Department and this office,” Katz said. “We seem to be here quite a bit with these takedowns of guns from throughout the south. We are speaking about illegally smuggled weapons, handguns, easily concealed, many of which are equipped with high-capacity ammunition-feeding devices, weapons intended to be sold illegally and resold and possessed by drivers of crime right here in the streets of New York City.”
Anthony Sanford, 57, of Jamaica, and Oliver Sanford, 40, of Springfield Gardens were indicted by a Queens grand jury on July 19 and he was arraigned on July 21 before Queens Criminal Court Judge David Kirchner who ordered them held without bail. Both will return to court on Sept. 15 and they both face up to 50 years in prison if convicted. Two men from the Bronx were also arraigned and are being held without bail, while the alleged ringleader, Richard Horne, 70, is under arrest and awaiting extradition to Queens.
“Illegal gun traffickers who flood our neighborhoods with dangerous firearms put every resident of our borough at grave risk,” Katz said. “We have seen far too many instances of guns, purchased down south and trafficked into New York that are then recovered at devastating crime scenes, leaving bloodshed and tragedy on our streets.”
She added that the historic case highlights the relentless efforts of her office, in close partnership with the NYPD, to stem the flow of illegal and dangerous weapons into neighborhoods across Queens and her Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau will continue to infiltrate gun trafficking rings and hold accountable those who jeopardize public safety.