Attorney General James and NY Drug Enforcement Task Force Take Down Ghost Gun and Narcotics Trafficking Ring
Joint Investigation by OAG, NYPD, NYSP, and DEA Recovered 19 Firearms, including 12 Ghost Guns, High-Capacity Magazines, and More than 560 Grams of Cocaine
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force today announced the take down of a firearm and drug trafficking operation that illegally sold guns, including ghost guns and assault weapons, in New York City and Westchester County. The 123-count indictment charges Eduardo Hernandez, Jose Garcia, and Euclides Castillo with trafficking 19 firearms, including 12 ghost guns, six high-capacity magazines, and more than 560 grams of cocaine, with a street value of approximately $25,000.
Today’s takedown was the result of a 16-month joint investigation between the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, which is comprised of agents and officers from the New York City Police Department (NYPD), New York State Police (NYSP), and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“Guns are one of the greatest threats to public safety, and we must do all we can to stop the flow of these weapons into our communities,” said Attorney General James. “Untraceable ghost guns present a new and growing risk to our safety, but this takedown makes clear that we will not allow anyone to make a business selling ghost guns and assault weapons in our state. From stopping the companies that sell these dangerous ghost gun kits, to defending our state’s commonsense gun laws, and going after gun traffickers, we will continue to address the gun violence crisis from every angle. I thank our partners in law enforcement for their invaluable support in this investigation, and for their continued commitment to protecting the safety of all New Yorkers.”
“Ghost guns endanger New Yorkers and carve highways of death in our communities, but thanks to the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, 19 illegal guns, including a dozen ghost guns and AR-15 assault weapons, are off our streets today,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “A number of the ghost guns recovered in this bust contained components from Polymer80 — the largest source of ghost guns used in crimes across the nation — which is why, today, I am repeating my call for the ATF to revoke the federal firearms license of Polymer80. Despite this unlawful conduct, our law enforcement efforts are helping New York City turn a corner. The NYPD seized 8,500 illegal guns from the streets, including more than 540 ghost guns, since we came into office. Every New Yorker should be able to send their kids to school, shop in their local store, and come home safely to their family. It is going to take all of us working together to dam the rivers of gun violence, so I want to thank Attorney General James, the NYPD, the NYSP, and the DEA for all their work in making our streets and city safer.”
Recovered ghost guns
The investigation revealed that Hernandez, Castillo, and Garcia worked together to traffic firearms from Massachusetts to New York where they were illegally sold. Both Hernandez and Garcia sourced the majority of these guns from an undisclosed location in Massachusetts and brought them to New York. Between March 2021 and July 2022, both Hernandez and Garcia sold illegal firearms, including loaded assault-style ghost guns, at Hernandez’s residence in Queens, and Garcia also made sales from a location in Port Chester. Castillo was present and participated in the illegal sale of firearms. Castillo, who previously worked in the assembly division for the gun maker Smith & Wesson, also provided buyers with instructions on how to operate the purchased firearms while inside Hernandez’s Queens residence.
Hernandez also sold more than 560 grams of cocaine. In total, the investigation resulted in the recovery of:
- 19 firearms, 12 of which were ghost guns
- Nine 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistols, eight of which were ghost guns
- Seven AR-15 style assault weapons, four of which were ghost guns, two that were loaded
- Two .45 Caliber pistols, one of which was loaded
- One cutdown, defaced, and loaded 12-gauge shotgun
- Six high-capacity magazines
- Approximately 560 grams of cocaine and 0.4 grams of heroin
The investigation included hundreds of hours of physical and covert surveillance, analysis of voluminous electronic evidence, including cellular telephonic communications, and other traditional investigative operations.
“The work in this case to eradicate guns and stop gun violence in the communities we serve has continued to make New York City safer,” said New York City Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell. “But we will not rest here. Together with our law enforcement partners, we will never waver in this urgent, ongoing mission to keep illegal guns — traditionally manufactured and sold firearms, as well as the equally deadly ‘ghost guns’ with no traceable markings — from circulating through our city’s neighborhoods.”
“I commend the diligent work of our State Police members and thank the Attorney General’s Office, DEA, and NYPD for their partnership in this case,” said New York State Police Acting Superintendent Steven A. Nigrelli. “The arrest of these three individuals is a testament that we will not stand for dangerous weapons and drugs to be infiltrated into our communities or state. The State Police remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to keep dangerous individuals such as this off our streets.”
“The DEA New York Division is committed to making New York City a healthier and safer city by targeting gun and drug traffickers,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino. “This investigation exemplifies law enforcement action to stop the insidious gun trafficking networks in our city with ties throughout the east coast. Each gun that is seized is an act of violence prevented, and I applaud the hardworking investigators and law enforcement partners who worked tirelessly on this investigation for their steadfast commitment to removing drugs and threats of violence through law enforcement action.”
“Whether on the streets or in the courts, we cannot relent in the battle against illegal guns and the criminals who use them,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. “The single most important thing we in law enforcement can do to keep New Yorkers safe is to work together to hold criminals accountable for the bloodshed and heartbreak wrought by gun violence. My thanks and congratulations to the Attorney General, NYPD, State Police, and DEA for their outstanding work on this investigation.”
The 123-count indictment, unsealed today before Queens County Supreme Court Justice Evelyn L. Braun, charged the three individuals with multiple crimes, including Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the First, Second, and Third Degrees, Criminal Sale of a Ghost Gun in the Second Degree, Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second and Third Degrees, Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First, Second, and Third Degrees, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second and Third Degrees, and Conspiracy to sell firearms as well as Conspiracy to distribute narcotics, among other charges.
If convicted, Eduardo Hernandez faces up to 25 years in prison on a conviction to Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the First Degree and up to 20 years in prison on a conviction to Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree. Jose Garcia faces up to 15 years in prison and Euclides Castillo faces up to 7 years in prison.
Those charged in today’s indictment include:
- EDUARDO HERNANDEZ, 29, Jamaica, New York
- EUCLIDES CASTILLO, 30, Davenport, Florida
- JOSE GARCIA, 46, Westfield, Massachusetts
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
This is the latest ghost gun take down led by Attorney General James and the task force. In December 2022, Attorney General James and the task force removed 57 illegal firearms, including 51 ghost guns, as part of a 438-count indictment against three individuals. These defendants were charged for their roles in trafficking these ghost guns in Queens and Nassau Counties.
Today’s take down marks the latest major drug bust in OAG’s Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic (SURGE) Initiative, a law enforcement effort that brings together state and local law enforcement to target New York’s heroin, opioid, and narcotics trafficking networks. Since launching in 2017, SURGE has taken 847 alleged traffickers off the streets.
Today’s take down is also the latest effort by Attorney General James to combat illegal gun trafficking and get dangerous guns and drugs off New York's streets. Through OCTF, Attorney General James has removed guns and firearm components from local communities and charged dangerous individuals for breaking New York state laws.
Earlier this month, Attorney General James secured a court order banning 10 gun distributors from selling and shipping ghost gun parts into New York. In June 2022, Attorney General James sued 10 those national gun distributors for bringing ghost gun parts into New York.
In November 2022, Attorney General James sent cease and desist orders to 39 ammunition sellers demanding that they stop shipping ammunition directly to New York and warned them of serious legal consequences if they continue to violate New York’s law. In July 2020, Attorney General James stopped 17 companies from selling ghost guns into New York. Additionally, through her gun buyback program, Attorney General James has been able to remove more than 4,000 guns from New York communities since 2019.
Attorney General James would like to thank Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz for her office’s valuable assistance in this investigation.
The investigation was led by members of NYDETF Group T-32, under the overall supervision of NYPD Deputy Inspector and NYPD Commanding Officer of the Drug Enforcement Task Force Thomas Kelly, DEA Deputy Special Agent in Charge Frank Del Re, and Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. DEA New York Division Frank A. Tarentino III. NYPD Assistant Chief Christopher McCormack, NYPD Chief of Detectives Chief James Essig, Major Brian Webster, Troop Commander of the NYS Police Troop NYC, and Captain Michael Sumnick, NYS Police Zone Two Commander were also involved in this investigation.
The investigation was led by OCTF Detectives Brad Farrell, Brian Fleming, and Angel Lopez and Supervising Detective Paul Grzegorski under the supervision of OCTF Deputy Chief Andrew Boss. The Attorney General’s Investigations Division is led by Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes.
The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorneys General Jason Navia and Joseph Barca, under the supervision of Downstate OCTF Deputy Chief Lauren Abinanti with the assistance of OCTF Legal Analyst Santiago Molina. Nicole Keary is the Deputy Attorney General in Charge of OCTF. The Criminal Justice Division is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado. Both the Investigations Division and the Division for Criminal Justice are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.