Three charged in Facebook gun sales scheme

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Federal firearms investigators have interrupted a Kentucky to Chicago gun pipeline according to charges made public Tuesday against three men who used Facebook to allegedly arrange the deals.

The Chicago Crime Gun Strike Force arrested the three men, all 23 years old, identified as Christopher Henderson, John "JoJo" Phillips and Jaiqail Wright. They are charged with dealing firearms without a license. The ABC7 I-Team has obtained exclusive photos of the law enforcement operation in progress last week.

Phillips, from west suburban Hillside, is also a convicted felon and charged with an additional gun violation because of that.

Federal agents say the trio trafficked 80-90 guns going back to at least September of 2016-some recovered at crime scenes in Metro Chicago. The deals are believed to have included pistols and rifles, extra magazines and ammunition. Based on descriptions from federal agents, the their gun business was brisk and lucrative. The charges offer rich details about the alleged gun pipeline as agents monitored social media exchanges and tracked cell phone GPS locations of some of those charged.

For years Chicago street gangs have procured guns through illegal gun routes between the Sunbelt and the Midwest. According to newly unsealed federal court records, Henderson and Phillips met buyers via a private online gun site to buy weapons in Kentucky. Law enforcement officials say they used fake names and various email addresses.

In a Chicago Police Department statement Tuesday, spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department is continuing a "crackdown on digital marketplaces for illegal guns." The sale of guns on social platforms poses a public safety risk according to Guglielmi. Earlier this month an ATF member of the crime gun strike force was shot and wounded during an undercover gun trafficking investigation in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. The alleged shooter in that case, said by authorities to be a gang co-leader, was arrested a few days later.

Coincidentally on Tuesday Facebook released a report detailing the millions fake and dangerous posts the company took down so far this year. Illegal gun deals violate several Facebook community standards...but the transactions in this case were made mostly through private, coded messages-seemingly more difficult for Facebook to police. In this case it took federal agents and Chicago police with warrants to put an end to it.
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