POTTSTOWN — A Berks County woman faces a trial on charges she illegally purchased guns for a multi-county gun trafficking network.
Makayla Prince, 22, of the first block of Monroe Street, Mohnton, was ordered to stand trial, after waiving a preliminary hearing before District Court Judge Edward C. Kropp Sr., on charges of corrupt organizations, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, making false statements, criminal use of a communication facility and illegal sale or transfer of firearms in connection with a gun trafficking organization that allegedly relied heavily on so-called “straw purchase” schemes.
Prince remains free on $100,000 unsecured bail while awaiting her next court appearance, a formal arraignment hearing in county court at which a judge could set a trial date.
Prince was one of 14 people charged in February for alleged roles in the gun trafficking organization that operated in Montgomery, Berks, Bucks, Lancaster and Philadelphia counties.
At the time of the arrests, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele alleged the network illegally obtained and resold a total of 31 firearms using straw purchase schemes in the five-county area, putting “guns in the hands of people that are not allowed by law to buy their own guns.”
A straw purchase occurs when someone who is legally allowed to purchase a firearm purchases one and then gives it illegally to someone who is not permitted to purchase that firearm.
With the charges, prosecutors alleged Prince purchased four firearms on behalf of a gun trafficking organization led by several people including: Alexander Aaron Smith, 21, of the 3000 block of Jolly Road, Plymouth Meeting; Daveese Smith, 22, of the 800 block of Smith Street, Norristown; and Tony Pearson, 40, of the 700 block of Chain Street, Norristown.
Alexander Smith, Daveese Smith and Pearson are still awaiting court action on corrupt organization-related charges, according to court records.
Detectives from the county’s Violent Crime Unit began tracking the multiple alleged purchases of firearms by some of the alleged conspirators through the state’s Electronic Record of Sale (EROS) system and by reviewing state and federal gun purchase paperwork at gun stores. Detectives also used surveillance, interviews, information from law enforcement agencies, cell phone data and social media analysis to identify the suspects, according to court papers.
“One illegal purchasing spree conducted by members of this organization yielded nine handguns in eight days,” according to the criminal complaint filed by Montgomery County Detective Jeffrey Koch, Montgomery Township Detective Todd Walter and state police Trooper Brian Kedra. “The purpose of this corrupt organization was to illegally obtain and distribute numerous firearms to others.”