NORRISTOWN, PA – One month after dismantling a gun trafficking organization that had purchased 44 guns, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele announced the arrests of five Norristown residents on multiple charges related to straw purchases of 15 firearms and illegally transferring firearms in another gun trafficking organization.
The gun trafficking organization was run by Henry Harris Jr., 33, a convicted felon who was not allowed legally to purchase, own or even handle a firearm. Harris enlisted four others into his gun trafficking organization, directing them on which guns to buy on his behalf: Lynwood Wilford Jr., 29, who purchased 11 guns; Jaime Winslow, 40, who purchased two firearms; and Jahlesia Clark, 21, and Sara Travis, 49, who each purchased one firearm. The 15 straw purchases were made in Montgomery County and Philadelphia between Aug. 19 and Oct. 6, 2020. Six firearms have been recovered.
A “straw purchase” is when a person with a clean background purchases firearms specifically on behalf of another person to conceal the true ownership of the firearm. Persons who are unable to legally purchase a firearm would include convicted felons, domestic violence misdemeanants, juveniles and mentally ill individuals.
The investigation began in September after Montgomery County Detectives reviewed required ATF paperwork related to the purchases of multiple firearms by one individual. There were indications that these were straw purchases. Using investigative techniques that included interviews, surveillance footage, cellphone data analysis, firearm transaction records and other investigative means, detectives found that Harris was working with Wilford, Clark, Travis and Winslow to obtain firearms illegally by directing their purchases of firearms and then illegally providing them to other people.
“This is another organization that is putting guns in the hands of criminals. These illegal firearms are a significant threat to our communities and to our safety,” said Steele. “Law enforcement in Montgomery County are committed to tracking down these gun traffickers and stopping them. It’s important for everyone to know that someone who buys a gun legally and gives it to or sells it to someone else, is in violation of firearms laws and will face jail time. It’s not worth the meager amount of money these traffickers will pay.”
This investigation was led by the Montgomery County Detective Bureau’s Violent Crime Unit (VCU) with assistance from the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General’s Gun Violence Task Force, the FBI’s Bucks and Montgomery County Safe Streets Task Force, the Pennsylvania State Police, Norristown Police Department, Warminster Township Police Department, Bensalem Police Department and West Norriton Township Police Department.
The defendants were charged with varying crimes, but all include felony counts of Corrupt Organizations and Conspiracy. Other charges include Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activities, Receiving Stolen Property, Unlawful Transfer of a Firearm, Criminal Use of Communications Facilities, Materially False Statements and multiple related offenses.
The defendants were arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Marc A. Alfarano. He set bail at $99,000 cash for Harris, $99,000 unsecured for Wilford and $50,000 unsecured for Clark, Travis and Winslow. Harris failed to make bail and was remanded to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. The preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m., Nov. 2, 2020, in front of Judge Alfarano.
The case will be prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Samantha Arena of the Firearms Unit.
CRIMINAL CHARGES, AND ANY DISCUSSION THEREOF, ARE MERELY ALLEGATIONS AND ALL DEFENDANTS ARE PRESUMED INNOCENT UNTIL AND UNLESS PROVEN GUILTY.