Three men have been charged with orchestrating a scheme to illegally traffic guns from Kentucky to Chicago, using Facebook as a platform to arrange many of the illicit sales.
Christopher Henderson, 23, of Louisville, Ky., and John Phillips, 23, of west suburban Hillside, and Jaiqail Wright, 23, of Chicago, were charged with dealing firearms without a license, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
The maximum sentence for is five years in prison.
Phillips was also charged with illegal possession of a firearm by a felon, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Detention hearings for the three men are scheduled for Thursday.
Several of the more than 80 guns involved in the alleged plan were later recovered at crime scenes in and around Chicago, prosecutors allege.
A 72-page affidavit unsealed Tuesday details several instances in which Henderson and Phillips used ArmsList.com, a private gun sales marketplace, to buy guns in Kentucky. They often used fake names and different email addresses.
Henderson and Phillips would then communicate with Wright over Facebook, with Wright acting as a broker to arrange sales between Henderson, Phillips and others, prosecutors allege.
The affidavit featured several exchanges between Henderson and Wright, including several that seem to show Wright acting as a go-between for others looking to buy guns.
The filing reads in part:
Wright: That’s it
Henderson: Rn yea
Henderson: They won’t [want] sum
Wright: That’s glock wat
Henderson: 45 [caliber]
Henderson: They coo like always? Lol
Wright: He sad [said] for 700
Henderson: I told u ok what they wanna do I ain’t coming on the block doe
Wright: He sad [said] where u trying meet
Henderson: Might have to come to me I ain’t driven
Henderson: I’m in Maywood rn
Henderson: Let me knw wasup”
In another instance, Henderson bought a pistol on Dec. 23, 2016.
Police recovered that gun less than three months later while they were investigating a vehicular hijacking in the western suburbs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A representative for ArmsList.com did not respond to a request for comment.
Cook County court records show that Phillips was arrested near 60th and Throop in July 2017. He was charged with being an armed habitual criminal and being a felon in possession of a firearm. That case is still pending.
In 2014, he was arrested near 70th and Western. He was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, records show. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison and two years of supervised release.
Wright was arrested in June 2013 near Augusta and Ridgeway and was charged with possession of a controlled substance, according to court records. His public Facebook page shows dozens on uploaded photos of large bags of marijuana, blunt wraps and, in one instance, the ingredients of “Lean” — prescription-strength cough syrup mixed with a soft drink and hard candy.
The next year, Wright was arrested near Augusta and Monticello and charged with obstructing a peace officer, records show. Also in 2014, he was charged with mob action stemming from an arrest near Augusta and Central Park.
Henderson has no prior arrests in Cook County. All three men were taken into federal custody last week.
Sarah Pollack, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said that any time the social media giant becomes aware of illegal activity “that facilitates firearm sales, we remove it immediately and have worked to minimize the opportunity for these activities to take place on our platform.”
“Further, we routinely respond to law enforcement requests for information in compliance with applicable law and our terms, including those related to activity like the illegal sale of firearms,” she added. “We promptly responded to law enforcement’s requests in this case.”
Last year, Chicago Police announced that 50 people had been arrested after investigators had infiltrated a secret Facebook group used to sell guns and drugs.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson blasted Facebook as complicit in illegal gun sales on the platform.
“Facebook has a responsibility to the people that they serve to ensure that these types of things don’t go on, and quite frankly, they haven’t been very friendly to law enforcement to prevent these things, so maybe with you all’s help, they will become that,” Johnson told reporters at the time.
Soon after, a representative from Facebook reached out to the CPD to arrange a meeting between the social media platform and leaders of the police department.
In a statement Tuesday, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department will continue “to crackdown on digital marketplaces for illegal guns.”
“The alleged sale of guns on these platforms poses a public safety risk but CPD and our partners are sending a very strong message that we will not tolerate this activity and offenders can now answer to a federal court,” he added.