Three Twin Cities men were arrested and charged last week in connection to a social media-based machinegun distribution ring.
Rafael Carter Wesley, 19, Kyrees Darius Johnson, 22, and Avont Akira Drayton, 21, have been charged in three separate complaints with one count each of unlawful possession of machineguns, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announced in a press release.
Law enforcement began investigating a Snapchat group called “BLICCS&STICCS3” in March 2023 and suspected the social media group was used to “facilitate the trafficking of machineguns, firearms, and controlled substances in the Twin Cities and outlying areas,” Luger’s office explained.
“Law enforcement obtained screenshots and videos of several individuals in the group selling, promoting, and operating machinegun conversion devices (MCD) that convert a semi-automatic firearm — either a pistol or a rifle — into a fully automatic machinegun. These devices are classified as machineguns and are regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA),” the press release says.
Throughout the investigation, undercover officers purchased MCDs, commonly called “switches,” from all three defendants, including a 3D-printed MCD from Drayton, who said the device made firearms shoot “way too [expletive] fast.”
Officers conducted a total of six purchases from members of the BLICCS&STICCS3 group.
According to Luger’s office, Johnson has prior felony convictions and is thus prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition while “Wesley and Drayton are subject to court-imposed restrictions that prohibit them from possessing firearms.”
All three defendants made their first court appearances last week. The investigation was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Central Minnesota Violent Offender Task Force, the St. Paul Police Department, the Minneapolis Police Department, and the Dakota County Drug Task Force.
Minneapolis police first detected fully-automatic gunfire in the city on Aug. 13, 2020, at the intersection of East 37th Street and South 5th Avenue. Between then and September 2022, more than 4,000 fully-automatic rounds were detected by ShotSpotter technology.