GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- The City of Chicago is trying to plug what investigators believe is one big part of an illicit gun pipeline between Indiana and Illinois.
According to the lawsuit, Westforth Sports in Gary, Indiana is the number one supplier of guns used in Chicago crimes during a seven-year period, and the lawsuit cites a 2019 I-Team report focusing on so-called straw purchases that result in missing guns.
The lawsuit accuses family-owned Westforth of breaking U.S. laws by selling hundreds of guns to straw purchasers - guns the city claims in the lawsuit were funneled to felons and Chicago gang members.
"We are surrounded by states and cities that have a much, have a much more lax gun control environment. You can go over the border to Indiana and get military grade weapons if you have the money," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
An I-Team 2018 investigation linked illegal suburban Chicago gun sales to a supply line into cartel strongholds in Mexico. A 2019 report showed that of the 10,500 guns recovered in Illinois, half came from other states; and more than 1,500 were from Indiana.
City attorneys point to I-Team reporting that focuses on all the illegally-purchased guns in Indiana that haven't been found, and as one federal agent said, "that's the scary part."
The lawsuit asks that Westforth be made to stop straw sales, which is a tactic when a person buys a gun on behalf of someone else. Those include buyers making multiple purchases of the same gun, buying sprees, and cash payments.
"This gun store we have done a lot of data and analysis and working with the feds to research it," Lightfoot said. "They are selling thousands of crime guns every year."
Court documents show that the family-owned gun store is known to have sold at least 180 guns to at least 40 people who were later charged with federal crimes.
The lawsuit lists several examples of alleged gun trafficking. One of them involved the arrest of Darryl Ivery Jr., 24, who was charged with federal gun crimes during Operation Legend.
ATF agents say Westforth sold Ivery 19 guns over 14 separate transactions, all within a six-month period. Although the lawsuit claims this was a red flag, the shop kept selling him weapons.
Investigators said those guns then ended up circulating on Chicago's streets. The weapons were found at crime scenes within just hours after being bought in Gary.
In addition to damage payments, the city wants a court-appointed supervisor to oversee Westforth's sales for a period of five years, as well as mandatory training for all Westforth personnel.
The owner of Westforth Sports declined to speak on camera with ABC7 reporter Alexis McAdams, but said that he was caught off-guard by the lawsuit. He said he turns away gun buyers every day and maintains that his business is in compliance.