TRENTON, N.J. - Four Steubenville men and a man from East Liverpool were among 51 defendants indicted in September by a state grand jury for allegedly selling or possessing firearms.
The cases include "Operation Ohio," in which 11 men from Ohio and New Jersey were charged with selling 18 guns on the streets of Newark and Irvington as part of a conspiracy to illegally traffic guns, including assault rifles, into New Jersey from Ohio, according to acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Huffman.
The 11 men allegedly sold 18 guns in Newark and Irvington between October 2012 and January 2013, including two assault rifles, eight handguns, three shotguns and five rifles, according to the attorney general's office.
The defendants are Leonard King, 39, Andrew L. Estes, 21, Johnny E. Gilbert, 50, and Kenneth E. Shepard, 28, all of Steubenville; John E. Bowles, 38, of East Liverpool; Melvin L. Harrison, 49, James D. Harrison, 45, Jonathon J. Williams, 23, and Sharrif Patterson, 24, all of Newark; and Aaron Q. Kearney, 20, and Renard W. Kears, 44, both of Irvington.
All of the defendants face second-degree charges of conspiracy and unlawful disposition of firearms, according to the attorney general's office.
Melvin Harrison, Patterson and Bowles face second-degree charges of unlawful possession of a handgun. King, Estes and Melvin Harrison face second-degree charges of unlawful possession of assault firearms in connection with their alleged sale of two assault rifles in December 2012. King, James Harrison, Bowles and Kears are charged with possession of guns as convicted felons.
The second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison, and the charge of possessing a gun as a convicted felon carries a mandatory prison term of five years, according to the attorney general's office.
The Jefferson County Drug Task Force assisted in the investigation.
King also faces drug charges in New Jersey from an arrest in June.
King was driving a vehicle in Somerset County, N.J., about halfway between Trenton, N.J, and New York City, on June 4 when the New Jersey State Police attempted to pull the vehicle over. It took off at a high rate of speed. According to reports, troopers backed off on the pursuit a couple times before a local law enforcement officer in Bernards Township spotted the vehicle abandoned off a highway.
State troopers and local police searched the area before arresting King and Michael King, 38, of Newark.
Police reported Leonard King had tried to dispose of a case containing 1.5 pounds of heroin.
Leonard King was charged with possession of heroin with intent to distribute, eluding, and was issued multiple motor vehicle summonses, and was taken to the Somerset County Jail, where he is lodged on a $250,000 bond.
Steubenville Police Chief William McCafferty said he was informed by New Jersey officials that Leonard King admitted to going to New York City to buy the heroin for $26,000 and intended to bring it back to Ohio, where King claimed he could sell it for $120,000.