Acting New Jersey Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced criminal charges against three men for allegedly trafficking untraceable “ghost guns” from Pennsylvania into New Jersey.
The defendants allegedly purchased partially assembled firearms in Pennsylvania. They then sold them fully assembled in New Jersey, without the serial numbers mandated by state and federal law to allow law enforcement to trace the weapons.
During the investigation, the defendants allegedly sold a total of six AR-style ghost assault rifles, nine ghost 9mm handguns, nine illegal large-capacity magazines, and one silencer.
When arrests were made on August 16 and search warrants were executed at locations in Camden and Philadelphia where the ring allegedly assembled the guns; additional weapons were seized.
Authorities seized a total of four more fully assembled ghost handguns (one of which was fully automatic), a fully assembled ghost assault rifle, parts for another ghost handgun, parts for five ghost assault rifles, many rounds of ammunition, and nine large-capacity magazines, including 50- and 60-round drum magazines.
In 2020, the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Offices of Attorney General announced a partnership—the “PA/NJ Gun Trafficking Initiative”—to interdict interstate gun trafficking and solve gun crimes.
The initiative was built on intelligence-sharing efforts by the Camden Violent Crime Initiative and the Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force, which continue in full force in their respective cities.
“Every day, we’re working to dismantle the criminal networks that funnel illegal firearms into New Jersey,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “We’re especially concerned about the growth of untraceable ‘ghost guns,’ and we’ve devoted our full investigative resources to stopping the flow of these dangerous weapons.”
The following defendants were arrested on Monday, August 16:
- Eduardo T. Lazo Jr., 26, of Camden, allegedly led the weapons trafficking conspiracy and sold the illegal guns at or near his residence on North 33rd Street. Investigators seized a ghost handgun when a search warrant was executed at his residence.
- Juan Enrique Fernandez, 29, of Philadelphia, Pa., allegedly transported guns from Pennsylvania to New Jersey in his vehicle with Lazo. Fernandez allegedly had a ghost handgun on his person when arrested, and the execution of a search warrant at his home led to the seizure of a ghost assault rifle, two more ghost handguns, parts to build a ghost handgun, parts to build five ghost assault rifles, nine large-capacity magazines, and numerous rounds of ammunition.
- Ericknell Rivera-Mercado, 30, of Philadelphia, Pa., allegedly assisted Lazo and Fernandez in the weapons trafficking conspiracy.
Lazo, Fernandez, and Rivera-Mercado are each charged with various Weapons Possession and Transport charges.
In addition to the charges filed in New Jersey, Fernandez faces charges filed in Pennsylvania.
Lazo waived his detention hearing and consented to be detained in jail pending trial in New Jersey. Fernandez and Rivera-Mercado, who were arrested in Philadelphia, were released on bail.