Interstate Gun-Trafficking Ring Dismantled

Interstate Gun-Trafficking Ring Dismantled

By Forum Staff

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced on Monday that three defendants were indicted on the heels of a seven-month investigation into gun trafficking that included a series of undercover buys in the parking lot of a P.C. Richard & Son in Astoria and a wiretap on the defendants’ phones. The investigation netted 109 illegal firearms and rifles smuggled from the Midwest via the notorious Iron Pipeline, including 20 assault weapons, as well as 139 high-capacity magazines and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Ahmed “Taju” Mutalib, of Georgia; Abdul Haruna, of the Bronx; and Ohio resident Murtala Haruna – who are all cousins – were indicted by a grand jury on 575 counts charging them with criminal sale of a firearm, criminal possession of a weapon, conspiracy and money laundering.

According to the charges:

  • Police were alerted to the trafficking activity through a confidential tip to District Attorney Katz’s office and the NYPD in March 2023.
  • Following an initial investigation and intelligence gathering, five transactions took place between the defendants and an undercover police officer in the parking lot of P.C. Richard & Son, at 35-18 Steinway St. in Astoria.
  • On June 10, Mutalib, 32, sold 12 guns with respective unloaded magazines, in addition to 10 large- capacity magazines. Abdul Haruna was present during the transaction and counted the money.
  • On June 27, Mutalib sold 16 semi-automatic pistols with respective unloaded magazines, three rifles, one shotgun, and 900 rounds of 9 mm ammunition.
  • On Aug. 8, Abdul Haruna, 27, collected $4,000 in pre-recorded money from an undercover officer as an upfront payment towards the purchase of additional firearms.
  • On Aug. 14, Mutalib sold five rifles, 25 semi-automatic pistols with respective unloaded magazines and 20 large-capacity magazines.
  • On Aug. 26, Mutalib and Murtala Haruna, 30, sold five long guns, 30 semi-automatic pistols and 500 rounds of 9 mm ammunition.

In all, the undercover officer bought a total of 97 firearms, including 17 assault weapons.

During the course of the investigation, called Operation Chainline, the defendants were recorded discussing the purchase, transport and sale of multiple firearms. Detectives witnessed defendants Murtala Haruna and Mutalib coming out of a Cincinnati townhouse carrying large boxes to a U-Haul truck, corresponding directly with subsequent calls regarding the transportation of guns for sale.

On Sept. 8, law enforcement officials tracked Murtala Haruna and Mutalib driving a rented vehicle with a Florida license plate through New Jersey into New York. When the defendants parked in Staten Island, a search warrant was executed on the vehicle, resulting in the arrest of the two defendants and the recovery of:

  • 12 guns, including three assault weapons
  • 13 high-capacity magazines
  • 1,000 rounds of 9 mm ammunition
  • Two sets of men’s clothing
  • Backpack with financial documentation in Mutalib’s name

Defendant Abdul Haruna was arrested pursuant to the indictment on Nov. 2.

“We are fighting the gun plague with all our might and resources, on the streets and in the courts. Through the hard work and collaboration of police and prosecutors, we have seen shootings in 2023 decline 28 percent in the city and 34 percent in Queens,” Katz said. “That is of little comfort, however, to the more than 1,000 victims of shootings across the city this year. Through investigations, arrests and prosecutions, we will continue to do everything we can to shut the Iron Pipeline down once and for all.”

Each defendant faces up to 25 years in prison.


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