POTTSTOWN — Two men, one from Norristown and the other from Plymouth Meeting, must answer to charges in Montgomery County Court for their alleged roles in operating a multi-county gun trafficking organization that relied heavily on so-called “straw purchase” schemes.
Alexander Aaron Smith, 21, of the 3000 block of Jolly Road, Plymouth Meeting, and Daveese Smith, 22, of the 800 block of Smith Street, Norristown, each was ordered to stand trial, after preliminary hearings before District Court Judge Edward C. Kropp Sr., on charges including corrupt organizations, conspiracy, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, making false statements, possession of prohibited firearms and sales or transfer of firearms to ineligible transferees.
Each man now faces a formal arraignment on the charges in county court after which a judge will set a trial date. Both men remain in the county jail in lieu of $250,000 cash bail while awaiting their trials. Court documents do not indicate if the men are related.
Assistant District Attorney Lauren Marvel is prosecuting the cases.
Tony Pearson, 40, of the 700 block of Chain Street, Norristown, a third man accused of operating the gun trafficking network, is still awaiting a preliminary hearing, according to court records.
The Smiths were among 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.
Several people were charged with purchasing numerous firearms on behalf of the corrupt organization allegedly led by the Smiths and Pearson and they are also awaiting trial.
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.”