A New York judge on Monday gave seven alleged Rock Hill gun-runners – accused of buying weapons in South Carolina and selling them in New York City – a month to work out plea agreements or head to trial, court officials said.
The multi-state undercover operation resulted in the largest seizure of illegal weapons in the city’s history, 19 total arrests and 557 indictments on weapons and other charges.
All the defendants previously pleaded not guilty to charges alleging that they used the easy access to guns in South Carolina to cash into the illegal gun market in New York, where gun possession and sales laws are far more strict. Some of the weapons confiscated fire rounds that can pierce walls and render police body armor useless.
Alleged mastermind and weapons courier Earl Campbell, 24, a former Northwestern High School athlete, faces 238 felonies and the potential of up to life in prison if convicted. Campbell – nicknamed "Tall Man" during a police investigation because of his 6-foot-6-inch height – allegedly bought guns in Rock Hill from other defendants, then took the weapons to New York on at least two dozen bus trips from Charlotte to New York’s Chinatown.
Campbell, who remains jailed without bond, sold 90 weapons worth $75,000 to undercover police, court documents allege, from October 2012 through July 2013.
The 254 weapons seized – in what police hailed as a disruption of an "Iron Pipeline" of weapons – included dozens of assault rifles, machine guns and handguns ranging from automatics to revolvers.
The plot to circumvent New York gun laws by using weapons bought both legally and illegally in South Carolina was broken up by police using wiretaps on cellphones, undercover operatives and informants, according to indictments. Police and prosecutors hailed the August arrests as crucial to stopping New York crimes before they happened.
Some of the alleged transactions were done in broad daylight on street corners in Chinatown and Brooklyn.
Another defendant from Rock Hill is expected in court in mid-February after spending six months fighting extradition to New York to face five felony accusations. Kendall Danielle Jones, 23, Campbell’s girlfriend, was arraigned in New York Thursday and will not make her first appearance until Feb. 13. She is being held without bond.
Larick Michaux, 26, of Rock Hill, faces 49 felony charges and is in jail under a $1 million bond. His sister, Warquisha Michaux, 29, is in jail under a $250,000 bond. Indictments allege they supplied Campbell with guns and ammunition.
Chris Hill, 25, of Rock Hill, is being held without bond; and Brandon Potts, 24, of Rock Hill, remains in jail under $250,000 bond. Arthur Antonio Barber, 27, of Rock Hill, is the sole defendant to have been released pending trial after posting $100,000 bond, records show.
Marcel Dyess, 21, of Rock Hill, indicted for allegedly supplying weapons, is in the Turbeville Correctional Institution after pleading guilty in May to felony hit-and-run and other charges in an unrelated case.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065