Three men suspected of funneling illegal guns to the streets of Philadelphia were arrested yesterday and charged with federal weapons-trafficking violations.

In announcing the indictment of the trio, U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan said investigators were trying to trace the weapons they sold to an undercover agent back to their legal origins to determine whether they had been stolen or purchased for black-market sale.

The undercover agent purchased 22 guns - including 15 semiautomatic pistols - during the sting operation set up by a task force involving the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Philadelphia police, and the state police. All but three of the guns had their serial numbers intact.

Handguns, particularly semiautomatics, have been used in 108 of the 128 homicides in the city this year through Tuesday.

Meehan and ATF and police brass announced the arrests at a news conference across the street from the John Paul Jones Junior High School in Port Richmond, in the shadow of which the sale of 18 of the weapons took place.

Because of that, Meehan said, the defendants face stiffer penalties if convicted.

Arrested without incident were Eugenio Santiago-Mejias, 47, of East Cambria Street; Jose Luis Guzman, 23, of East Orleans Street; and Jairo Correa Merejildo, 21, of East Lycoming Street.

Santiago-Mejias, also known as "Tito," faces a maximum sentence of 30 years to life behind bars if convicted because he is a felon, Meehan said. Guzman and Correa Merejildo, also known as "Cabeza," which means "head," each face up to 151/2 years in prison.

Officials did not know how many weapons the trio had sold on the streets of the city, but their arrests cut off one source, said Thomas Stankiewicz, special agent in charge of the ATF's Philadelphia office.

"These guys had no respect for the quality of life of the people living in the neighborhood," he said.

Johanna Foley, who lives near the school, said she could not believe gun-dealing was going on in her neighborhood.

Still, she said, crime and the sound of gunfire were common.

"My son is 15 years old and he's got to be in the house by 8:30 [p.m.]," she said. "It's bad."

Contact staff writer Joseph Gambardello at 215-854-2153 or jgambardello@phillynews.com.


Seized Guns

This is a list of the firearms Eugenio Santiago-Mejias, Jose Luis Guzman and Jairo Correa Merejildo allegedly sold.

Manufacturer and model Size and type Serial number

Handguns

1. Hi-Point JHP .45 caliber semiautomatic X415803
2. Cobray SWD M-11 9 mm semiautomatic Obliterated
3. Intratec AB-10 9 mm semiautomatic Obliterated
4. Intratec Category 9 9mm semiautomatic 08995
5. Sturm Ruger P95DC 9 mm semiautomatic 315-56616
6. Hi-Point JCP .40 caliber semiautomatic X717326
7. Beretta 70S .380 caliber semiautomatic A36247Y
8. Colt MK IV
Series 80
.380 caliber semiautomatic Obliterated
9. Llama Micro Max .380 caliber semiautomatic 07-04-12517-99
10. Bersa Thunder .380 .380 caliber semiautomatic 552908
11. Beretta 1915 .32 caliber semiautomatic 25261
12. Harrington &
Richardson 733
.32 caliber semiautomatic AS100190
13. Harrington &
Richardson Premier
.32 caliber revolver 386815
14. Iver Johnson .32 caliber revolver A433
15. Beretta 21A .25 caliber semiautomatic BAS04493V
16. Jennings Firearms J22 .22 caliber semiautomatic 511079
17. High Standard
Sentinel MK IV
.22 caliber revolver S60940
18. Phoenix Arms Co.
Raven
Semiautomatic
(no caliber given)
3079771

Shotguns

19. Mossberg 590 12 gauge L227315
20. Mossberg 500AG 12 gauge J123711
21. Mossberg 500CT 20 gauge G318806

Rifles

22. Romarm/Cugir
WASR 10/68
7.62x39 caliber semiautomatic PU-6726-85

SOURCE: Federal indictment The Philadelphia Inquirer