Nearly 80 firearms were seized and 32 people arrested Friday after a monthslong probe into a Lawrence, Massachusetts, drug and gun trafficking ring involving gang members, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling announced Friday.
Dubbed "Operation Emerald Crush," federal, state and local authorities banded together to target suspected firearm and drug traffickers in the greater Lawrence area, the federal prosecutor said in a press conference at Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston.
The investigation resulted in the seizure of 79 guns and a large quantity of drugs worth $120,000, according to Lelling.
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"Aside from the seemingly endless supply, what's eqaully troubling to us is that we bought four of these firearms from minors," said Joe Bonavolonta, the FBI's special agent in charge for Boston.
Eighteen people who were arrested in the probe are members of the Trinitarios gang, according to Lelling.
Among the narcotics secretly purchased from the suspects were heroin, fentanyl and cocaine, Lelling said. Authorities purchased various firearms during the investigation, such as M4 carbines, AK-47 rifles, TEC-9 pistols and even bulletproof vests.
Multiple guns purchased by authorities did not originate in Massachusetts, but were lost or stolen from other states, including New Hampshire, Maine and further afield.
"The guns on the table show you why gun violence is not a local but a national problem," Lelling said.
He also characterized Lawrence as a "source city" for opioid trafficking in the states north of Massachusetts.
"Crime is down in Lawrence," he said, adding that he's heard from federal and state prosecutors in New Hampshire in Maine that the enforcement has been helpful. "I can tell you that the word has gotten out in Lawrence that the feds are now very focused on Lawrence, and I think that has had some impact."
But Lawrence resident Louise Paola said that, despite the crackdown, violence there persists.
"We're losing our kids to the streets. The streets are killing our children," she said.
The drug charges carry sentences randing from three years to life in prison, with fines up to $10 million, Lelling's office said, while the firearms charges carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison.