Feds charge 19 in Mississippi-Chicago gun pipeline

By Frank Main
The Chicago Sun-Times

A 9mm handgun recovered last year in a Chicago Police standoff that left two gang members dead was one of hundreds of guns smuggled here from Mississippi, officials said Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors unsealed gun-trafficking charges against three Chicago men and 16 others from Mississippi. Members of at least four Chicago gangs bought the smuggled weapons from the traffickers, federal prosecutors said.

"The violent activities of these gangs have been disrupted," Chicago Police Deputy Supt. Hiram Grau said.


The Chicago defendants include convicted felons Eddie Nesby, 25, Julius Statham, 37, and Antonio Brunt, 30.

Nesby allegedly told investigators he recruited Percy Strong of Mississippi and others to buy guns for him there. Strong could buy guns because he was not a felon, officials say.

In 2005, Strong bought a 9mm Hi-Point pistol at a Clarksdale, Miss., pawn shop. The Hi-Point was recovered last October in the 3200 block of West Augusta after officers stopped a car containing gang members getting ready to shoot a rival, police said. The gangsters pointed the Hi-Point and an AK-47 at officers, who opened fire and killed two of them, police said.

Chicago Police, State Police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have been investigating the Mississippi-to-Chicago gun pipeline since 2001. The defendants named Wednesday were allegedly responsible for 39 Mississippi guns recovered by law enforcement officials in Chicago. Authorities have not found 117 other Mississippi guns distributed in Chicago by the defendants, officials said.

Investigators are looking into whether about 200 other Mississippi guns recovered in Chicago were smuggled by the same defendants.

One gun bought in Mississippi was used in a crime in Chicago just five days later.


In recent years, gun traffickers have been selling powerful, expensive weapons such as 9mm and .40-caliber pistols -- and assault weapons such as AK-47s -- through smuggling networks, said Andrew Traver, head of ATF in Chicago. In the past, traffickers worked alone and sold cheap, easily concealed low-caliber pistols out of their cars, he said.

"The face of firearms trafficking has changed dramatically," Traver said.

Copyright 2007 Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.
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