CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte and the Carolinas are now both tops in the nation in thefts from gun stores and firearms dealers.
The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said in the 2017 fiscal year, there have been 60 gun dealers who were broken into, resulting in 1,032 firearms being stolen.
Of those stolen weapons, only 201 have been recovered.
The guns have turned up all across the southeast and north to Washington D.C.
The ATF stopped one of the groups who were notorious for stealing guns. The group was known by federal agents as the Blow Torch Crew because they used blow torches as the primary means of entering stores they were going to rob.
The crew was mainly after handguns and the ATF says the guns were sold to other criminals.
Special Agent Gerod King from the Charlotte office of ATF said, “No law-abiding person is going to buy a firearm from a convicted felon who stole it from a licensed dealer.”
ATF said 27-year-old Devonnaire Coffey was the ringleader of the Blow Torch Crew.
Coffey was eventually arrested a convicted.
Five other suspected crew members are under indictment.
The ATF says they successfully broke into 14 gun stores, including a Gander Mountain in Charlotte.
ATF says the crew alone was responsible for the thefts of 340 firearms and of those, only 87 have been recovered.
“One of those firearms reached Washington, D.C., where it was involved in a homicide.”
ATF is working with gun dealers to try to increase security at their stores amd dealerships.
“You should be concerned because once these criminals get these firearms, we don’t know where they are going to go and what they will do,” said King.
Coffee was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for his role with the Blow Torch Crew.