Four men, including an MTA subway conductor, were indicted for allegedly trafficking guns purchased in the South to sell on Brooklyn streets, the Brooklyn District Attorney announced this morning.
“This indictment is another example of how the NYPD and our law enforcement partners remain focused on eliminating illegal guns from the streets of New York City,” Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said. “Bringing gun traffickers to justice is dangerous work, but the NYPD remains committed to protecting New York City communities and keeping people safe. I commend the members of our Firearms Suppression Section, and specifically the Firearms Investigations Unit, and the Brooklyn District Attorney for their efforts that resulted in these indictments.”
The Brooklyn DA’s office and the NYPD have been investigating this case from October 2019 to October 2020. On November 4, 2019, an undercover detective met Montoun Hart, 49, from Brownsville to purchase firearms. The undercover detective allegedly made six controlled firearm purchases from Hart from November 4 to November 19, 2019, the DA’s office said.
The undercover detective then facilitated a meeting between another detective and Hart. The new undercover detective posed as an associate and would purchase firearms on behalf of the first detective. Between December 3, 2019, and December 30, 2019, the second undercover detective allegedly made three controlled firearm purchases from Hart. On January 17, 2020, the first undercover detective resumed purchasing firearms directly from Hart, and over the course of the investigation, Hart allegedly sold a total of 44 firearms to the undercover detective.
According to the investigation, three of Hart’s alleged suppliers operated independently from one another. Still, their individual practices were similar: once a supplier obtained a firearm, he would tell Hart the make, model, and price via telephone and often send a photo of it. Hart then passed the details on to his customer (like the undercover detectives) and scheduled the sale. According to the DA’s office, all of the alleged sales occurred within a block of Hart’s home in Brownsville.
Vernal Douglas, 49, is an MTA conductor and Flatlands resident who also has an address in South Carolina, where he frequently travels. According to the investigation, Douglas allegedly obtained firearms during these trips and allegedly told his sources there to mail him firearms. Christopher Hodges, 31, is a resident of South Carolina and allegedly “accumulates firearms from a variety of sources and then travels up to New York via a Chinatown bus company to transfer the firearms to Hart,” the investigation found. Ira Jones, 42, a resident of Virginia, also allegedly traveled to NY with firearms for Hart to sell.
According to the MTA, “The indicted conductor is not in active service and will remain out until further notice. The MTA has zero-tolerance for conduct that facilitates crimes of violence, and fully cooperates with law enforcement investigations in such cases.”
Among the many firearms recovered are two assault weapons, a German Sport Guns .22 caliber rifle and a Smith & Wesson 9mm semi-automatic pistol, as well as a Ruger .44 caliber revolver, a Smith & Wesson .357 caliber revolver, a Springfield Armory 9mm pistol, a Taurus 9mm, a Glock .380 caliber, a Glock 9mm, and a Ruger P89 9mm pistol.
Hart, Douglas, Hodges, and Jones were charged in a 139-count indictment with first-, second-and third-degree criminal sale of a firearm; second-and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon; fourth-degree conspiracy and related charges. Hart and Douglas were arraigned, with Hart being remanded. The bail was set for $750,000 for Douglas. Jones is awaiting extradition from Virginia, and Hodges is still being sought, the DA said.
“This indictment is part of our multi-pronged approach to stem the surge in gun violence that we have seen in Brooklyn and throughout the entire city this year,” Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez said. “We are determined to work with the Police Department to focus specifically on the drivers of crime, including those responsible for the proliferation of firearms by bringing them to streets of Brooklyn. I commend the detectives, especially the undercovers, and my prosecutors for their joint efforts in this important case.”