Six men and one woman have been charged as part of a gun-trafficking ring, Montgomery County authorities said Friday.
The leader of the group, Michael Hill, 30, of Lower Pottsgrove, recruited and employed people with clean backgrounds to falsify paperwork to buy guns on his behalf as "straw purchasers," according to the affidavit of probable cause.
"The main purpose of this corrupt organization was to arm individuals, including Hill, who are precluded from legally owing a firearm," the affidavit says.
Hill was also involved in the distribution of illegal drugs — pills, heroin and methamphetamine, authorities said.
Hill and the five other men were arrested and arraigned Friday. They were unable to make bail and were sent to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.
Also arrested were Corey DeJohnette, 23, of Pottstown; his brother, Phillipe DeJohnette, 24, of Stowe; Andrew Person, 30, of Reading; Chad Hill, 18, of Birdsboro; and Anthony Walker, 28, of the 200 block of North Gross Street in West Philadelphia. A 28-year-old Pottstown woman, Jennifer Bender, was also charged and a warrant for her arrest was issued.
Each defendant was charged with corrupt organizations, unlawful transfer of a firearm, criminal use of communications facilities, unsworn falsification and related offenses.
During the course of the investigation, 13 firearms, including multiple handguns, semiautomatic weapons and a rifle, were traced to the group, the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office said in a statement.
"We successfully seized a number of weapons in the search of Michael Hill's residence, and even more importantly, with the defendant's arrest we have stopped a supplier of illegal guns," District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said. "Our entire region is safer for it."
The charges followed a long multiagency investigation by the D.A.'s Violent Crime Unit, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Pottstown Police Department, the West Pottsgrove Police Department and the Lower Pottsgrove Police Department.