March 22, 2014

Rock Hill gun-smuggling suspects back in N.Y. court

Scheme alleged “Iron Pipeline” of guns from Rock Hill to New York City

Seven Rock Hill gun-smuggling suspects – who police say last summer supplied the largest cache of illegal weapons seized in New York City history – are set to appear in court Monday, court filings show.

Those hearings might be the last chance for alleged ringleader Earl Campbell, a former Northwestern High School athlete, and the other defendants to avoid trials that could land some of them in prison for life.

The scheme involved suspects buying guns in South Carolina, where gun sales laws are more lax, and selling them at inflated street prices in New York, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. In an unrelated case, a 34-year-old New York man convicted last month of 21 felonies involving the sale of 11 illegal guns in New York City was sentenced to 42 years in prison.

So far, each of the Rock Hill defendants has fought the charges.

Campbell, 24, is charged with 238 felonies. Police say he pocketed $75,000 from the sale of 90 guns to undercover police. Investigators say he and others bought the guns in South Carolina, then took them to New York by bus. Campbell remains jailed without bond, court records show. He was offered a deal of 30 years in prison if he were to plead guilty, according to court testimony from January. He faces life in prison if convicted at trial.

Seven Rock Hill defendants are scheduled for court Monday morning in Manhattan, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and court documents.

The arrests of the Rock Hill defendants and another group from North Carolina were hailed in August by New York’s police commissioner, mayor and state and federal authorities as the biggest bust ever in New York. The gun sales that led to 19 arrests were brazen, police claim in court documents, with many of the guns taken north in suitcases and gym bags, and cash deals transacted in public places among big crowds.

Campbell’s girlfriend, Kendall Danielle Jones, 23, of Rock Hill, tried to put together an assault rifle on a Chinatown streetcorner while watching a how-to video on her cellphone, according to wiretap recordings. She is being held without bond in a New York City jail.

Larick Michaux, 26, who faces 49 felonies and life in prison if convicted at trial rather than taking a plea deal for 18 years in prison, argued with Campbell over gun sale profits and wanted more money, according to wiretaps. Michaux is a convicted felon in South Carolina and is being held on a $1 million bond.

Warquisha Michaux, 29, Larick Michaux’s sister, allegedly supplied Campbell with guns and ammunition. Warquisha Michaux, in jail under a $250,000 bond on several felony charges, was offered a 10-year sentence if she were to plead guilty, according to court officials.

Chris Hill, 25, of Rock Hill, is being held without bond and was offered five years in prison to plead guilty. Arthur Antonio Barber, 27, of Rock Hill, released pending trial after posting $100,000 bond, was offered a deal of five years in prison. Brandon Potts, 24, of Rock Hill, who remains in jail under a $250,000 bond, is also set to appear Monday, court records show.

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