Smuggled guns seized in Fishponds as plot to sell them to criminals foiled by police
THREE men from Fishponds were part of a plot to smuggle handguns and ammunition into the UK for criminals to use.
Kenville Hall, Busiso Benjamin and Nico Lacroix were involved in the plot to import three weapons into the UK.
Hall even advertised the guns for sale to criminals on an encrypted social media platform.
But after Avon and Somerset police received a tip-off, they worked with the National Crime Agency and the US-based Homeland Security Investigations unit and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms to stop the guns from reaching the streets and arrest the conspirators.
Hall, aged 30, of Frampton Crescent, Fishponds was today sentenced to 17 years and two months in jail after admitting two counts of conspiring to supply a firearm and conspiring to possess ammunition.
Benjamin, also 30, of Gorse Hill, Fishponds, was jailed for 12 years in jail for two counts of conspiring to supply a firearm.
Lacroix, also of Frampton Crescent, received a four-month suspended sentence for encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence.
Two other men were also jailed after admitting conspiring to supply a firearm: Alcot Flemming, 44, of Quarry Lane, Lawrence Weston, received a 10-year, five-month sentence and Rhafeek Morson, 29, of Stanway Court, Hackney in London was jailed for 11 years and five months at Bristol Crown Court by Judge James Patrick, who said the weapons and ammunition was "destined for the hands of criminals" and "had the capacity to kill or maim".
Police said three brand-new Taurus handguns (above) were bought in Atlanta, Georgia, and concealed in bluetooth speakers, before being posted to addresses in Fishponds and Hackney.
Police officers in Miami intercepted a package containing 330 rounds of ammunition, also hidden in a speaker, before it could be exported.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Dewfall said a parcel containing one of the 9mm Taurus self-loading pistols, hidden inside a bluetooth speaker, was delivered to Hall’s home in Fishponds last November and signed for by Lacroix, who believed it be a delivery of imported cannabis.
A second package delivered to a property in Hackney contained two further Taurus pistols: one 9mm and one .40 calibre.
Hall picked the package the following day and took the guns to Bristol, where they were to be sold.
But police moved in and arrested the gang before the sale could take place.
Alcot Flemming and Rhafeek Morson were also jailed
DCI Dewfall said: "This was an organised criminal group working on both sides of the Atlantic to bring illegal firearms into the UK.
"These firearms, which were brand new and unused, would almost certainly have fallen into the hands of those wishing to cause harm to others.
"The crime group used social media chat groups to co-ordinate their illicit enterprise and evidence showed they spent November 2019 arranging for the firearms to be bought in Atlanta and posted to the UK.
“During our investigation we recovered a video on an encrypted social media platform on Hall’s mobile phone, in which he’d filmed himself holding the weapons.
"This a chilling video, being used to advertise the weapons for sale to his criminal associates, but they were intercepted by Avon and Somerset police officers and the group members were arrested during a series of armed operations.
“We’d like to thank the National Crime Agency for their invaluable support as well as our colleagues in the USA, who successfully stopped ammunition destined for the UK from leaving Miami on December 2, 2019.
"This was a prime example of a co-ordinated international policing response to dismantle a well-organised criminal network.
"These men showed absolutely no morality by arranging for these lethal weapons to be imported into the UK and then sold off to the highest bidder.
"It’s clear they would have fallen into the hands of dangerous offenders and used in the commission of further offences, potentially with tragic consequences."
National Crime Agency spokesperson Matthew Perfect said: "Firearms are often trafficked through several jurisdictions, so multi-agency co-operation is crucial. Regardless of country of origin, we are committed to continuing these efforts, disrupting gun trafficking networks who pose a threat to the UK.
“Our mission is to protect the public and do so by offering our expertise and capabilities to all law enforcement partners.”
Senior Crown Advocate for the Crown Prosecution Service Richard Posner said: “This was a complex and challenging case that succeeded thanks to effective cooperation between Avon & Somerset Police and multiple agencies, both in the UK and abroad.
"Thanks to this excellent work, and the evidence it gathered, the CPS was able to build a convincing case that resulted in five convictions. It brings to an end this dangerous criminal behaviour, which was motivated solely by financial gain with no regard for the fear and potential loss of life such weapons can cause in the wrong hands.”