Nearly 30 homemade “ghost guns” and more than 15,000 doses of suspected fentanyl were among contraband seized by federal authorities when they recently broke up a New Jersey trafficking ring.
Six members of the Latin Kings gang face life in prison if convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, according to the Justice Department, while three others could get more than a decade for trafficking or possessing firearms.
One of the gang members, 30-year-old Christopher Soto of Matawan, New Jersey, remains at large.
So-called “ghost guns” are virtually untraceable firearms assembled from kits or 3D-printed parts. Citing a tenfold increase in reports of suspected ghost guns since 2016, the Biden administration last year required serial numbers on them and tightened the rules for who can buy and sell the kits.
According to the Justice Department press release, investigators started uncovering the ring’s drug distribution network in May 2022. They found that several members were also involved in trafficking guns, including ones illegally made at home with 3D printers.
Officers raiding a gang member’s home in November 2022 walked in on two 3D printers at work producing more guns, according to the release. Over the course of the investigation, officers seized 28 assembled ghost guns.
They also seized three devices designed to convert semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic machine guns, according to the release.
From May to December 2022, officers also seized more than 15,000 individual fentanyl doses, as well as 100 bricks and 8,500 doses of suspected fentanyl in other searches on Wednesday, Jan. 4.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid stronger than morphine by 50-to-100 times, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Potentially lethal in small doses, it has come to be frequently mixed with heroin and is currently the leading cause of U.S. overdose deaths, according to the DEA.
The Latin Kings gang operates with several thousand members in cities across dozens of states, according to the Justice Department. It makes most of its money through drug trafficking while “engaging in a wide variety of criminal activities.”