CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Officials from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have helped bring charges against the ringleader of a group of gun thieves.
Devonnaire Coffey and several unnamed accomplices were indicted for gun thefts in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia according to Gerod King, Public Information Officer with the ATF Charlotte Field Division. The group was known for using blow torches to break into gun shops.
King said Coffey and his accomplices were responsible for stealing 340 firearms in the three southeastern states. Of the 340 stolen guns, 87 of them have been recovered. 76 were recovered in South Carolina and Georgia. The other 11 were recovered in New York, Illinois, Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, Massachusetts and Washington D.C. King said one of the firearms found in Washington D.C. had been involved in a homicide.
"The initial crime is the theft of the firearms. The most important probably is all the subsequent crimes that will be committed with these firearms," said King.
Investigators say Coffey, who had previously been convicted of theft by receiving stolen property, will now spend 10 years in federal prison for the gun thefts. King considers Coffey's gun theft operation to be organized crime.
"This is well thought-out. It was methodical. It was planned," explained King. "You had people who played roles and you had him (Coffey) giving the orders."
King said the Coffey and his crew committed 14 burglaries of licensed federal firearm dealers, and attempted six other thefts. He said the crime spree lasted from February of 2016 until July of 2016. King said the thieves would target gun stores close to interstates so that fleeing from the scene was easier.
King said Coffey was eventually picked up at a traffic stop where he was found to be in possession of cocaine, marijuana, and a stolen firearm.
"We don't sleep on these cases. We investigate every firearms theft in the state of North Carolina and South Carolina," said King.
The number of firearms thefts in the Carolinas continue to rise.
King said 1,032 firearms were stolen in North Carolina and South Carolina in the 2017 fiscal year.