HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that the Office of Attorney General’s Gun Violence Task Force (GVTF) made seven arrests, confiscated nine illegal guns, and seized hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of dangerous drugs in Philadelphia last week. The GVTF is a unique partnership between state and local law enforcement to target illegal guns and firearms used in crimes in Philadelphia by investigating gun trafficking, straw purchases and the movement of illegal guns.
“Our Gun Violence Task Force is dedicated to targeting gun traffickers and getting illegal guns off our streets to keep the people of Philadelphia safe—and action like we saw last week demonstrates why this is such a critical initiative, especially as we enter into the summer and see devastating gun violence on the rise,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “Thanks to the strong collaboration with our local law enforcement partners, these criminals, guns, and drugs are out of our neighborhoods where they threatened the safety of our children and families.”
“This investigation reveals the connection between the illegal firearm and drug trafficking trades, which challenge us all to find smart solutions in Philadelphia and across the country,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said. “I’m thankful for the determination of our Gun Violence Task Force, including our partners, which today is taking another positive step to address this challenge. I also want to remind the public that failure to safely store weapons out of the reach of children is against the law in Philly, and that we can and must work together to prevent related tragedies.”
Five of the arrests resulted from an investigation into a firearms and drug trafficking organization operating out of Miracles Jamaican Restaurant & Bakery on Castor Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. GVTF agents along with federal agents and Philadelphia Police conducted multiple controlled purchases and search warrants, resulting in confiscations of the following:
- 7 firearms (5 purchased, 2 seized)
- 1,443.93 grams of alleged heroin/fentanyl mix (street value $480,828.00)
- 842 Grams of alleged crystal methamphetamines (street value $168, 400)
- 510 Grams of Hydro marijuana (street value $10,200)
- 47 oxycodone 30 mg pills, 97 oxycodone 5mg pills, 149 tramadol 50 mg pills, 100 cyclobenzaprine 10 mg pills (street value of all pills $5875)
- $1708 U.S. Currency
The following individuals were arrested in connection with the Miracles Restaurant organization. All defendants reside in Philadelphia:
- Carmelo Armstrong, 23.
- Dwight Grant, 32.
- Stanley Williams, 33.
- Lamar Richardson, 19.
- Twana Miller, 31.
An arrest warrant was also issued for Richard Harmon, who is currently a fugitive. The defendants were charged with multiple counts of gun trafficking, conspiracy, and drug trafficking. Participating in this initiative along with the OAG was the Philadelphia Police Narcotics Unit, Philadelphia Police Major Crimes Unit, IDIS (Intensive Drug Investigation Squad), Homeland Security Investigations, and FBI Philadelphia Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force.
In a separate investigation, two individuals were arrested for conducting straw purchases—when an individual purchases a gun on behalf of another individual who is unable to legally make the purchase. The investigation found that Malik Eason, 24, of Philadelphia, purchased two handguns for John Pernice, 28, of Philadelphia, who had been previously convicted of a gun offense. GVTF agents executed a search warrant on Pernice’s home on Thursday, where they recovered a .9MM Ruger and a .40 Cal. Smith & Wesson handgun—the same guns sold to Pernice by Eason. Both handguns were loaded and one was found on the floor under the bed, within reach of the two small children who were at the residence at the time of the search.
Eason was arrested and charged with multiple violations of the Uniform Firearms Act, Tampering with Records, Criminal Conspiracy, and related charges. Pernice was arrested and charged with multiple violations of the Uniform Firearms Act, Endangering the Welfare of Children, and related charges. This investigation remains ongoing.