Atlanta Man Pleads Guilty in Firearms Trafficking Conspiracy Involving 500+ Firearms Shipped from Georgia to California and Sold on the Black Market

Atlanta Man Pleads Guilty in Firearms Trafficking Conspiracy Involving 500+ Firearms Shipped from Georgia to California and Sold on the Black Market

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Malek Williams, 29, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, pleaded guilty today to unlawful dealing in firearms without a license, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

On March 24, 2022, Williams was indicted with four other co-conspirators in a firearms trafficking scheme where firearms were acquired in Georgia and shipped to California to sell on the black market. Also charged in the conspiracy are Jerrell Lawson, 32, of Sacramento; Aisha Hoggatt, 30, of Sacramento; Terrence Phillips, 40, of Union City; and James Gordley, 33, of Modesto.

According to court documents, between November 2019 and October 2021, Williams participated in a conspiracy that brought more than 500 firearms from Georgia into California. 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 Alexis Klein and Justin Lee are prosecuting the case.

Williams is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd on Jan. 31, 2023. Williams faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison for unlawful dealing in firearms.

Charges are pending against the remaining defendants. The charges against them are only allegations; they 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 part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

The Sacramento Region/San Francisco Bay Area Cross-Jurisdictional Firearms Trafficking Strike Force is one of five cross-jurisdictional strike forces launched by the U.S. Department of Justice in July 2021 to disrupt illegal firearms trafficking in key regions across the country.  Each strike force is led by designated United States Attorneys, who collaborate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and with state and local law enforcement partners within their own jurisdiction as well as law enforcement partners in areas where illegally trafficked guns originate.  The strike forces use the latest data, evidence, and intelligence from crime scenes to identify patterns, leads, and potential suspects in violent gun crimes, and are an important part of the Department’s Comprehensive Violent Crime Reduction Strategy.

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