In what is considered the biggest gun bust in New York City history, police arrested 19 people in a weapons smuggling ring led by two men who would hide the guns in their luggage aboard cheap bus routes where they would face lower security and a lower risk of getting caught.

Authorities arrested the people in New York City, North Carolina and South Carolina as the result of a 10-month long investigation into gun smuggling for violent crimes. The gun sting netted a total of 254 guns from 45 transactions, one of the largest totals from an illegal firearm bust in recent history. The gun bust stemmed from a narcotics investigation and was conducted through wiretaps and undercover investigations. Both of the two main men arrested were acting separately, but used the same middle man to traffic the weapons. The men obtained the guns from a variety of sources in the Carolinas, buying some on the black market and buying some through straw buyers to avoid the one-gun-per-month restrictions.

The men would often take pictures of the guns before smuggling them to New York and would show them to the undercover officer. They would then smuggle a dozen guns in their luggage using a Chinatown-based bus line favored by drug couriers. The guns the men smuggled sold for a total of $160,000. Both of the men, aged 29 and 24, face several felony counts of criminal sale of a firearm.

This case demonstrates the complex nature of gun smuggling. Often, criminals and gangs in large cities face legal restrictions on obtaining firearms and increased scrutiny from law enforcement, so they hire couriers to smuggle weapons to them from out of state. These weapons cannot be easily traced to local sources, making them easier to use for the commission of violent crimes such as robbery and homicide.

Anyone accused of a weapons crime is entitled to a vigorous criminal defense and a presumption of innocence until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants have the constitutional right to question witnesses, dispute the admissibility of evidence and challenge the legality of the search and seizure of the contraband. Anyone accused of smuggling weapons has a right to an attorney who will defend them in court.

Source: CBS New York, “Authorities: 19 charged in largest gun bust in NYC’s history,” Aug. 19, 2013.