Federal law enforcement officials in Minneapolis have charged five people with conspiring to provide firearms to gang members in Minnesota.
Keniko Duane Bland, 20; Jacquelyn Gina Burnes, 29; Angela Yvonne Carter, 32; Diontre Ramone Hill, 21; and Raheem Abdul Watkins, 21, are charged with conspiracy to make false statements about buying firearms from licensed dealers.
They also are charged with giving the weapons to people they knew or should have known were under indictment and had been convicted of a crime and receiving and possessing firearms subject to interstate commerce.
According to the charges, Burnes and Carter bought firearms for the three men, who are admitted gang members with extensive criminal records. The men are banned by federal and state law from possessing firearms, said Scott Sweetow, special agent in charge of the St. Paul office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.
Sweetow said one of the guns involved in the alleged scheme was traced to a gang-related shooting outside a Minneapolis strip club earlier this year.
Burnes, who has worked as a Hennepin County corrections officer, is charged with making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm. Carter is charged with making false statements on gun shop records.
Guns that go from purchase to crime so quickly often indicate an illegal connection between the purchaser and the person police find with the gun, Sweetow said.
"Typically, when somebody buys the firearm, they're going to keep it. They may keep it in their car. They may keep it in their house or business," he said. "But when you see a female purchasing a firearm and it turns up in the hands of suspected gangangers, that's something we're very interested in running to ground."
The court documents allege that Hill is a self-professed member of a gang called BTG - a subset of the Tre Tre Crips. They note that Hill developed a romantic relationship with Burnes while she worked in the Hennepin County jail and he was locked up there.
According to the documents, Carter worked as a prep cook at South High School and was romantically involved with Bland, who police believe is a member of BTG.
Investigators say Watkins, of Brooklyn Center, the fifth person charged in the conspiracy, calls himself a member of a movement, not a gang.
"It's not an unusual scheme," U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said. "It's unusual that we were able to pull together enough evidence to prosecute it."
Luger said Bland, Hill and Watkins all are legally prohibited from having guns, and face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He said Burnes and Carter also face long prison sentences if convicted, for making false statements about their firearms purchases.
"We're being very aggressive in straw purchasing cases and similar cases where we can tie illegal weapons to gang members in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but elsewhere throughout the state," Luger said.
Sweetow said Carter, an employee of the Minneapolis school district, was shot at while driving in a car with several small children several days ago while authorities say Hill watched.
Hill was charged in Hennepin County District Court earlier this week for that assault. Carter's daughter suffered a serious eye injury in the shooting.