The trio were arrested after selling nearly 100 guns to an undercover NYPD cop on several occasions from June through August, prosecutors said
Three cousins with purported ties to Ghana were busted in an interstate gun trafficking ring as authorities wiped 109 guns — including 20 assault weapons — off the streets of the Big Apple, Queens prosecutors in New York said Monday.
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.
The trio were arrested after selling nearly 100 guns to an undercover New York City Police Department (NYPD) cop on several occasions from June through August, prosecutors said.
The massive takedown – dubbed Operation Chainline – also netted 139 high-capacity magazines and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, officials said.
“This case underscores some disturbing truths: First, illegal guns proliferate and circulate in many neighborhoods 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.”
Authorities were on the tail of the gun-smuggling kin since March – when a confidential tipster informed them that weapons were being funneled from the Midwest into New York through the notorious Iron Pipeline, the DA’s office said.
An investigation led authorities to the parking lot of P.C. Richard & Son, on Steinway Street near 36th Avenue in Astoria, where an undercover NYPD cop purchased dozens of weapons and a massive stash of ammunition from the cousins, prosecutors said.
The first sting took place on June 10, when Mutalib sold the undercover cop a dozen guns with unloaded magazines, as well as 10 large-capacity magazines, according to the DA’s office.
Abdul Haruna, who was present, counted the money, authorities said.
Then on June 27, the officer bought 16 semi-automatic pistols, also with unloaded magazines, three rifles, one shotgun and 900 rounds of 9 mm ammunition from Mutalib, officials said.
The officer met with the younger Haruna a second time on Aug. 8, handing him $4,000 as an upfront payment toward the purchase of even more weapons, prosecutors said.
The fourth parking lot exchange took place on Aug. 14, when Mutalib sold five rifles, 25 semi-automatic pistols with unloaded magazines and 20 large-capacity magazines to the officer, officials said.
In the officer’s final meet-up, on Aug. 26, both Mutalib and Murtala Haruna sold five long guns, 30 semi-automatic pistols and 500 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, according to the Queens DA’s office.
In total, the officer managed to take 97 guns, including 17 assault weapons off the street during the Astoria exchanges with the alleged smugglers.
“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.”
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, detectives witnessed the cousins coming out of a townhouse carrying large boxes to a U-Haul truck – corresponding with later calls for the transportation of guns for sale, prosecutors said.
Then on Sept. 8, law enforcement officials tracked Murtala Haruna and Mutalib driving a rented vehicle with a Florida license plate through New Jersey into New York, prosecutors said.
Once the pair parked in Staten Island, a search warrant was executed and the two men were arrested, according to the Queens DA’s office.
Adding to the previous stash, 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 with financial documentation in Mutalib’s name were recovered, officials said.
Abdul Haruna was arrested on Nov. 2, pursuant to the indictment.
Each of the cousins face up to 25 years behind bars and are due back in court on November 9.
“We are fighting the gun plague with all our might and resources, on the streets and in the courts,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a statement. “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.”
In a similar case last year, NYPD cops busted five men and seized 182 handguns in an illegal gun-trafficking ring that ran weapons from Tennessee to sell on the streets of Queens, officials said Thursday.
The men – hit with a 1,611-count indictment – exploited the lax gun laws in Tennessee and used the infamous “gun show loophole” to funnel the weapons through the Iron Pipeline into the Big Apple, Katz said then.