2 Georgia men charged as part of ‘dark net’ gun smuggling ring

A four-year international investigation produced indictments against the two men as part of a conspiracy to illegally export guns overseas hidden inside consumer electronics.

Gerren Johnson, 28, of Atlanta and William Jackson, 29, of East Point, Georgia, were charged in connection to a series of guns sold across three continents using various underground anonymity networks between February 2013 and April 2014. In all, authorities tracked over 50 suspect packages mailed from Georgia to more than a dozen countries.

Court documents show investigators were first tipped off to the ring in June 2013 when customs agents in Melbourne, Australia, found a Zastava 9mm pistol hidden inside a karaoke machine shipped to a local man from a post office in Winston, Georgia. Australian authorities interviewed the man the package was intended for, who told police he bought the gun illegally on Blackmarket Reloaded from a vendor named CherryFlavor for $3,000 in Bitcoin.

Back in the states, the gun was traced to Jackson who purchased it legally from a licensed gun store in Tennessee and, when questioned by federal agents, said he had resold the gun in the Atlanta area in May 2013.

Meanwhile, at least 17 other packages surfaced in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, each with pistols hidden inside electronic equipment. In each case, the parcels were mailed from Georgia to individuals who purchased the guns on the dark web through BMR, as well as two other underground sites — Agora and Utopia — from users identified as CherryFlavor, CherryFlavor_2, and WorldWide Arms.

The Trojan horse electronics ranged from antique cotton candy machines and home stereo speakers to DVD players. The guns included Glocks, Berettas, CobrayM-11s, and an Armitage International Scarab Skorpion.

Traces found the guns in large part were bought in Georgia through face-to-face purchases arranged on The Outdoors Trader, a free online classified page and resold for several times their cost.

The two men were charged with dealing in firearms without a license, smuggling goods from the U.S. to other countries, and illegal delivery of firearms to a common carrier. Both were arrested on a federal warrant on Tuesday with bond set at $10,000 pending a pretrial conference set for June 14.

Two other men in the ring, Sherman Bernard Jackson and Brendan Sherrod Person, were previously indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2014 on a variety of weapons charges. Jackson plead guilty to two of the charges in September 2015 while Person accepted a plea agreement earlier this year, with each facing as much as 20 years in prison.