TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced a lengthy prison sentence for a leading member of a criminal network in Camden County that was dealing cocaine and illegally trafficking untraceable assault rifles known as “ghost guns” assembled from kits purchased online.
Christopher Stoner, 43, of Lindenwold, N.J., was sentenced today to 14 years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Judith S. Charny in Camden County.Stoner pleaded guilty on Feb. 12, 2020 to first-degree distribution of cocaine, second-degree unlawful possession of an assault firearm, and third-degree purchasing firearm parts to manufacture untraceable firearms.He faces a pending charge of second-degree distribution of narcotics based on a Feb. 26 arrest by the New Jersey State Police.
Two other leading members of the criminal network pleaded guilty previously and are awaiting sentencing:
- Nicholas Cilien, 40, of Mt. Ephraim, N.J., pleaded guilty on Oct. 29, 2019 to first-degree distribution of cocaine, second-degree unlawful possession of an assault firearm, and third-degree purchasing firearm parts to manufacture untraceable firearms.The state will recommend a sentence of 14 years in state prison.
- Paul Corum, 44, of Lindenwold, N.J., pleaded guilty on Dec. 9, 2019 to second-degree unlawful possession of an assault firearm and third-degree purchasing firearms parts to manufacture untraceable firearms. The state will recommend a sentence of nine years in prison.
They were charged in “Operation Stone Wall,” an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey State Police that marked the first time charges were filed in a ghost gun trafficking case under a law signed by Governor Murphy in November 2018 that makes it a crime to buy, manufacture, possess or sell ghost guns in New Jersey. Ghost guns are not registered and do not have serial numbers, making them difficult for law enforcement to trace.Fourteen guns were recovered in the investigation, including the six ghost gun AR-15 assault rifles.Parts for two more AR-15 ghost guns also were seized.
“This prison sentence reflects our resolve to hold gun traffickers like Stoner accountable and to protect our communities from the grave danger posed when ghost guns are brought into New Jersey and sold into the hands of criminals,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We have taken strong action against manufacturers selling these guns in our state, and we will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute criminals who profit by supplying the black market for these deadly, untraceable weapons.”
“We will continue to work with our many law enforcement partners at all levels to stop the flow of illegal weapons and narcotics into our communities,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice.“Far too many lives are lost to drugs and gun violence each year in New Jersey, and there can be no doubt that investigations like Operation Stone Wall save lives.”
“Christopher Stoner and his associates sought to profit from the manufacturing and trafficking of untraceable firearms, which pose a threat to public safety and aid violent criminals who wish to remain undetected,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “This lengthy prison sentence demonstrates our commitment to protecting our neighborhoods from the death and despair created by the deadly mix of drugs and illegal guns trafficked by these defendants.We will continue to utilize every investigative tool at our disposal to ensure that these weapons do not end up in the hands of criminals.”
Most of the defendants were arrested in March 2019 and indicted in June 2019.Further details can be found in the press release on the indictment: www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases19/pr20190605a.html
“Operation Stone Wall” initially focused on alleged cocaine distribution by Lamont White, his son, Tyriek Bradford, and John Rayford, of Lindenwold, N.J. The investigation quickly expanded, however, to include other individuals allegedly involved in distributing cocaine, including Stoner, who allegedly supplied cocaine to White, and the following associates from whom Stoner allegedly obtained cocaine: Nicholas Cilien, Bryheem Belcher, Michael Smith, and Fabian Sapp.An additional defendant, Devon Davis, was involved in marijuana distribution with Cilien.
As the investigation expanded, detectives learned that Stoner was involved in illegal sales of guns, including ghost guns.During the investigation, Stoner and Cilien conspired with Paul Corum – and allegedly conspired with Marc Freeman of Lindenwold – to sell ghost guns, specifically six unregistered AR-15 assault rifles, which Freeman allegedly assembled using kits he and Corum purchased on the internet.The assault rifles allegedly were sold for prices ranging from $1,100 to $1,300 per gun.
During the operation, investigators captured Corum and Cilien discussing that a gun sale would be delayed because they could not have guns shipped to New Jersey due to the new criminal law against ghost guns and would need to ship them to Pennsylvania.On March 13, 2019 authorities intercepted parts for two more assault rifles allegedly ordered by Corum and Freeman for shipment to Bensalem, Pa.
The indictment also charged Dwayne Hagans.Detectives developed information that cocaine was being supplied to a ring member from Hagans’ residence.A search warrant was executed on March 8, 2019 at the residence, where investigators seized over 17 grams of cocaine and drug packaging materials.
Davis, Bradford, and Smith previously pleaded guilty and face sentences of probation.The charges against the other defendants are pending.Those charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Deputy Attorney General Cassandra Montalto is the lead prosecutor for Operation Stone Wall for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of former Deputy Bureau Chief Erik Daab and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis.Detective Ryan Cunningham is case agent for the New Jersey State Police Gangs and Organized Crime South Unit, under the supervision of Detective Sgt. Dorothy Quinn, Detective Sgt. 1st Class Michael Davis, and Lt. Daniel Strassheim.
Attorney General Grewal thanked the following agencies that assisted in the investigation and execution of warrants: NJSP TEAMS Unit South, NJSP Canine Unit South, FBI, Voorhees Township Police Department, Mt. Ephraim Police Department, Deptford Police Department, Gloucester Township Police Department, Lindenwold Police Department, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, and Camden County Sheriff’s Office.
Defense Attorney for Stoner: Andrew Bitar, Esq., Manalapan, N.J.