Three Ghanaian cousins have been arrested in New York City for their alleged involvement in an illegal gun-trafficking ring, which saw the distribution of over 100 illegal firearms on the streets of Queens, New York.
The suspects, identified as Abdul Haruna, 27, of the Bronx, Murtala Haruna, 30, of Cincinnati, and Ahmed “Taju” Mutalib, 32, of Decatur, Georgia, were hit with a 575-count indictment charging them with criminal sale of a firearm, criminal possession of a weapon, conspiracy, and money laundering, the Queens District Attorney’s office said.
“This case underscores some disturbing truths: First, illegal guns proliferate and circulate in many neighbourhoods that still need our help,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said in a statement.
“And second, every day, the men and women of the NYPD perform incredibly dangerous work to prevent these firearms from getting into criminals’ hands.”
They were apprehended as part of a crackdown on an interstate gun trafficking operation since March, with authorities seizing a total of 109 guns, including 20 assault weapons.
The trio, who are reported to be cousins, have been implicated in a significant case of gun trafficking, with the potential for severe legal repercussions. The charges against them could result in a 25-year jail term.
The Investigation & Apprehension
In a New York Post report, authorities traced an investigation to the parking lot of P.C. Richard & Son, situated on Steinway Street near 36th Avenue in Astoria. According to prosecutors, an undercover NYPD officer made a number of purchases from the involved cousins at this location, including a sizable cache of ammunition and numerous weapons.
According to the DA’s office, Mutalib sold the undercover officer ten large-capacity magazines and twelve guns, along with unloaded magazines, during the initial sting on June 10. Abdul Haruna, also present, was reportedly involved in counting the exchanged money.
The subsequent transaction unfolded on June 27, where the officer acquired sixteen semi-automatic pistols, once again with unloaded magazines, along with three rifles, one shotgun, and 900 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, according to officials
Prosecutors have described how, during a subsequent encounter on August 8, the officer met with the younger Haruna and gave him an upfront payment of $4,000 for the purchase of additional weapons.
On August 14, Mutalib completed the sale of five rifles, 25 semi-automatic pistols with unloaded magazines, and 20 large-capacity magazines to the officer during the fourth exchange in the parking lot, according to officials.
The final meeting on Aug. 26 saw both Mutalib and Murtala Haruna selling five long guns, 30 semi-automatic pistols, and 500 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, according to the Queens DA’s office.
Overall, the officer successfully removed 97 guns, including 17 assault weapons, from circulation during the series of exchanges in Astoria with the alleged smugglers.
In Cincinnati, detectives observed the cousins emerging from a townhouse carrying substantial boxes to a U-Haul truck, aligning with later reports of transporting guns for sale, according to prosecutors.
Subsequently, on Sept. 8, law enforcement authorities tracked Murtala Haruna and Mutalib, who were driving a rented vehicle with a Florida licence plate, through New Jersey into New York, prosecutors said. Upon parking in Staten Island, a search warrant was executed, leading to the arrest of both individuals, as outlined by the Queens DA’s office.
In addition to the earlier inventory, officials uncovered a dozen guns, including three assault weapons, 13-capacity magazines, 1,000 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, two sets of men’s clothing, and a backpack containing financial documentation in Mutalib’s name.
Abdul Haruna was arrested on Nov. 2, following the indictment. Each of the cousins faces a potential sentence of up to 25 years in prison and is scheduled to appear in court on November 9.
“Every illegal gun taken off the street, every robbery that is avoided, every shooting that does not occur, and every homicide that never comes to pass, is another realization of the public safety promise we have vowed to fulfill,” Caban said.
“I commend and thank the NYPD undercover officer who successfully worked this case, our detectives, and our partners in the Queens District Attorney’s Office, for their dedication to this critical investigation.”
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a statement:
“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.”
“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.”
“When that day comes,” Katz added, “all of us will owe a debt of gratitude to the brave undercover officer in this dangerous investigation, and to all those who have risked their lives to help keep us safe.”