Two men who ran an interstate scheme to put nearly 60 illegal guns on the streets of Philadelphia have been charged with multiple crimes, federal prosecutors in the city said Friday.
The arrests of Terrance Darby, 41, of Philadelphia, and Ontavious Plumer, 32, of Due West, S.C., strike at the illegal trafficking of firearms from southern states to the Northeast, a route called the ‘iron pipeline,’ U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said.
“Earlier this year, the Justice Department announced strategies to fight violent crime, including cracking down on firearms trafficking and the ‘iron pipeline,’ and our office announced the indictment of 14 people engaged in that black-market business,” Williams said.
“With today’s charges, we have shut off yet another valve to stem the flow of guns into Philadelphia,” she said.
Darby and Plumer were charged with unlicensed dealing and transport of firearms, conspiracy to engage in the unlicensed dealing of firearms, and making false statements to a federally licensed firearms dealer. They are accused of masterminding a gun straw-purchasing scheme in South Carolina and then transporting nearly 60 weapons across state lines. In straw buys, people with clean records purchase firearms claiming they are for their personal use, but then pass them to others who can’t legally possess them.
Darby was also charged with dealing methamphetamine and fentanyl and with having two illegal guns in his home when searched in November 2021.
“At a time when our communities have seen a spike in violent gun crime, it is more important now than ever that we hold those accountable for criminal actions,” said Matthew Varisco, special agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division.
The indictment alleges that between November 2020 and February 2021, Darby and Plumer conspired with at least four other people to illegally straw-purchase the firearms from licensed gun shops in South Carolina, then drive them into Philadelphia.
Darby would place orders for firearms with Plumer, who would then direct co-conspirators, the “straw” buyers, to purchase the weapons and transport them to Darby and his co-conspirator in Philadelphia, according to the charging documents.
In April, the Brady gun-control group released the most comprehensive look in two decades at the origins of thousands of crime guns seized by police in Pennsylvania. It found that 28% of the firearms seized in Philadelphia came from out of the state -- but that 51% came from in-state dealers. (The origins of the rest could not be determined.)
And the report said, “Philadelphia has a home-grown gun problem,” noting that most of the traced guns came from Pennsylvania dealers. The study drew on data assembled by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.
The earlier indictment, in April, targeted 14 suspects mainly from either Philadelphia or Georgia. It said this ring drove nearly 300 guns north from Georgia and sold them on the black market in Philadelphia for $116,000.