A St. Louis-to-Chicago gun trafficking network began with a relationship that was kindled on an online sneaker marketplace, federal authorities say.
Two men who met on a Facebook specialty sneaker group started trading guns for marijuana about a year ago, authorities say.
Over the past week, Chicago police and ATF agents arrested those men and their supplier, a 71-year-old Missouri retiree who’d traveled the country to buy weapons at gun shows, according to affidavits filed in federal court by an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The alleged supplier, Robert Narup, was arrested Oct. 15 in a Walmart parking lot in Washington, Missouri, after he sold 18 guns and two silencers to an undercover ATF agent for $14,000, authorities say. He’s charged with dealing firearms without a license.
After he was arrested, Narup was asked why he sold guns that could be used in violent crimes in Chicago and he said, “I like dead presidents” — referring to cash, according to court records.
Also arrested in the sting were Jerome Boykin, 30, of St. Louis, who’s accused of buying guns from Narup and selling them to Rogelio Mancera, 27, of Schaumburg, in exchange for marijuana. Boykin and Mancera met on a Facebook sneaker group about three years ago, officials say.
Rodolfo Ortega, 26, of Chicago, was a middleman, selling guns on the street for Mancera for a cut of the profits, authorities say.
On Oct. 8 in the Chicago area, Boykin provided undercover agents 22 guns for what he thought was 6 pounds of marijuana, according to an ATF affidavit. He cooperated with investigators and identified Narup as his source, officials say. He’s charged with possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking crime.
Boykin was freed on $4,500 bail. Narup was released on his own recognizance. Ortega was arrested Monday and charged with illegal possession of firearms.
Mancera was arrested Tuesday and charged with dealing firearms without a license. Both men remain in federal custody.
Mancera admitted he provided Boykin high-grade marijuana in return for at least 40 guns in at least 10 separate deals, federal authorities say. The price was three guns per pound of pot, officials say.
On Tuesday, investigators found 27 guns, including two machine guns, in Mancera’s storage locker in Schaumburg and about 10 pounds of marijuana in his “trap house” near Armitage and Kimball avenues in Logan Square, according to court records.
The Chicago Police Department’s new Gun Investigations Team made the arrests along with ATF.
Contributing: Jon Seidel