Attorney General James Announces Takedown of Gun Traffickers for Selling Ghost Guns and Other Firearms in Central New York

AG’s Investigation Recovered Dozens of Firearms and Gun Parts, Including Nine Ghost Gun Pistols and Nine Receivers Used to Make Assault-Style Ghost Guns

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced the indictment of four defendants charged with 35 crimes related to their participation in a gun trafficking operation in Central New York. An investigation led by the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) recovered 31 firearms and receivers, including 18 ghost guns or parts used to make ghost guns, dozens of high-capacity magazines, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Two indictments charge the four defendants with various crimes, including felony counts of Criminal Possession and Criminal Sale of a Firearm. 

“Untraceable ghost guns help empower criminals and are a threat to New Yorkers everywhere,” said Attorney General James. “This takedown is part of my office’s ongoing work with our partners in law enforcement to remove ghost guns from our streets and ensure the gun traffickers who threaten our communities see justice. I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to stop the sale of illegal guns in our state and protect New Yorkers from gun violence.” 

"Today’s indictments and arrests would not have been possible without the dedication, hard work, and expertise of our many partners in law enforcement,” said New York State Police (NYSP) Superintendent Steven G. James. “Through our efforts, we have disrupted a significant gun trafficking operation plaguing central New York, sending a strong message that gun trafficking and the violence that is often associated with it will not be tolerated anywhere in New York State. I want to thank Attorney General Letitia James for her ongoing partnership and all of our law enforcement colleagues for their tremendous investigative efforts and never-ending professionalism."

The takedown was the result of a joint investigation between OCTF and the NYSP Community Stabilization Unit, with assistance from the NYSP Special Investigations Unit’s Rochester and Syracuse offices and the Syracuse Police Department. The investigation included law enforcement subpoenas, covert physical surveillance, the use of undercover investigators, and other intelligence gathering techniques in combination with overt proactive law enforcement activities, including identified citizen encounters. 

The investigation is part of a continuing multifaceted operation designed to recover unregistered, untraceable firearms in the wake of legislation enacted in New York in 2021 to crack down on the possession and sale of unregistered and unserialized firearms, or ghost guns, and their component parts. In June 2022, the OCTF investigative team began an investigation into two sources of illegal firearms trafficking, including ghost guns, in the Syracuse area.

Over the course of the investigation, authorities seized the following firearms and components:

  • Nine Polymer80 and AR-15 style unfinished frames/receivers, used to assemble ghost guns 
  • Nine unserialized and unregistered Polymer80 ghost gun pistols 
  • Nine serialized unregistered firearms 
  • Three AR-15 style rifles
  • One 7.62 assault rifle 
  • Dozens of magazines, including several extended magazines classified as high-capacity ammunition feeding devices 
  • Hundreds of rounds of ammunition
OCTF 4.30.2024 (1)

Short-barrel AM-15 rifle with extended magazine and Polymer80 ghost gun pistol recovered by the investigation

OCTF 4.30.2024 (2)

Polymer80 9mm Luger pistols (ghost guns)  

OCTF 4.30.2024 (3)

Taurus 9mm Luger pistol with high-capacity magazine and ammunition

The four individuals who were charged with various counts of Criminal Possession and Criminal Sale of a Firearm (class B, C and D felonies) for their involvement in the firearms trafficking operation are: 

  • Charles Baker, 26 years old, Brewerton, New York 
  • Jeremy Baker, a/k/a “Rico,” 23 years old, Syracuse, New York  
  • Brian Lawson, a/k/a “P’Nut,” 23 years old, South Carolina 
  • John Leone, Jr., 52 years old, Elbridge, New York 

Indictment One

The first indictment outlines the activities of Lawson and both Bakers. Lawson is charged with Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the First Degree for allegedly selling three or more firearms in a period of less than one year. Lawson allegedly obtained the firearms he sold from the Bakers, who are also charged with several offenses relating to illegal firearms sales and possession. During the course of the investigation, OCTF detectives recovered numerous firearms alleged to have been sold by Lawson and the Bakers, including Polymer80 9mm pistols with no serial numbers.

Indictment Two

The second indictment outlines the activities of John Leone, Jr., who is charged in a 21-count indictment with Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the First Degree and other felony firearms offenses. Throughout that investigation, OCTF detectives recovered three Polymer80 9mm Luger pistols with no serial numbers and an Anderson Manufacturing AM-15 semiautomatic rifle assault weapon with a 7 ¾ inch barrel, all alleged to have been sold by Leone in Elbridge. 

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law. 

Today’s takedown is the latest effort by Attorney General James to combat illegal gun trafficking. In March 2024, Attorney General James secured a $7.8 million judgment against gun retailer Indie Guns for illegally selling ghost gun components in New York. In February 2024, Attorney General James announced the takedowns of a gun trafficking network that sold ghost guns and assault-style rifles and a narcotics trafficking network in Dutchess County. In December 2023, Attorney General James and the NYSP indicted a Manhattan man for trafficking guns and narcotics. In March 2023, Attorney General James announced the takedown of a ghost gun and narcotics trafficking operation in New York City. Also in March 2023, Attorney General James secured a court order banning 10 gun distributors from selling and shipping ghost gun parts into New York. In December 2022, Attorney General James announced the takedown of a ghost gun trafficking operation in Queens and Westchester counties.

The investigation was led by NYSP Senior Investigator Todd Grant of the Community Stabilization Unit and OCTF Detective William Elsenbeck and Supervising Detective John T. MacConaghy, under the supervision of OCTF Upstate Chief Detective John Monte and 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 Attorney General Geoffrey Ciereck, with the assistance of Legal Support Analyst Sean McCauley and OCTF Confidential Clerk Theresa Rowe, under the supervision of Upstate OCTF Deputy Chief Maria Moran. Nicole Keary is the Deputy Attorney General in Charge of OCTF. OCTF is part of the Criminal Justice Division, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado. Both the Investigations Division and the Criminal Justice Division are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.