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Arrests reveal details of gun ‘pipeline’

A Rock Hill man at the center of a sweeping investigation into illegal gun trafficking from the Carolinas to New York had his bond raised to $1 million Tuesday and is fighting extradition.

Earl Campbell, 23, faces hundreds of charges ranging from conspiracy to criminal sale and possession of firearms.

An indictment says Campbell sold 90 weapons – including assault weapons, rifles and shotguns – during 24 meetings with undercover police in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

His sales in Manhattan were close to where a bus from Charlotte would stop. Campbell would use the bus to transport weapons and received $75,000 in payments for the guns, investigators say. He carried as many as nine per trip, they say, often with the help of co-defendant Kendall Jones, 22, also of Rock Hill.

The 264-page indictment offers a detailed look at the so-called “Iron Pipeline,” the annual flow of thousands of guns into New York City, mostly from the South. A recent study by the New York Police Department and mayor’s office say the Carolinas are near the top of the list in supplying the weapons used to commit crimes in New York City.

The 6-foot, 6-inch Campbell, known as “Tall Man” by the New York police who followed him for almost a year, has been jailed since Aug. 5.

On Tuesday, he appeared before Mecklenburg County District Court Judge Phil Howerton, who raised his bond from $200,000 to $1 million.

According to New York authorities, Campbell is fighting extradition to New York City. Aaron Michel, his Charlotte attorney, declined comment Tuesday.

Howerton dropped the bond for his co-defendant Jones from $200,000 to $100,000.

New York investigators tabbed Jones as “Zebra Girl.” They say she was Campbell’s frequent companion on his trips to New York, during which she carried weapons in a zebra-striped suitcase.

Six other Rock Hill residents, whom authorities say illegally bought guns for Campbell to sell, also face charges: Larick “Line” Michaux of 843 Jefferson Ave.; his sister, Warquisha Michaux of the same address; Marcel Lydell Dyess II, being held in a South Carolina prison; Arthur Antonio Barber of 928 Rivercrest Road; Brandon Rashad Potts of 1115 Green St. extension; and Chris Hill of 928 Rivercrest Road.

Hill evaded capture for near two weeks before he was arrested Aug. 14 in Sanford, New York authorities say.

Another gun ring operated between Sanford and New York, according to the indictment. Walter Walker is accused of selling almost 115 guns to undercover cops dating to last September. Walker used a Brooklyn rap studio as the base of operations in New York, the indictment states.

Last February, Walker sold 14 weapons to an undercover buyer, the largest haul of the investigation, prosecutors say. Walker received $9,700 in return.

Six other North Carolinians are accused of either buying guns for Walker or helping him with his New York sales.

They are Christopher Seagraves, Cordero “Dero” Rollins, Tarell Francheon Flow and Iesha “Tanisha” Carmichael, all of Sanford; Tajammal Sharief “Taj” Brown of Goldsboro; and Jeremiah Devon “Cougar” McDougald of Broadway.

McDougald is also accused of robbing an individual at gunpoint while fleeing arrest, triggering a wide manhunt.

The indictment also names four New Yorkers, including Adedji Omole of Brooklyn, who authorities say acted as a middleman for both the Rock Hill and Sanford rings.

New York police already point the finger directly at the Carolinas. According to a July 31 police report, 90 percent of the guns used in 2011 crimes in New York City came from out of state. Based on the guns that were seized and could be traced, Virginia (322), North Carolina (255) and South Carolina (251) lead the way in supplying illegal weapons used in crimes.

New York’s stricter gun laws may contribute to a thriving black market for weapons. Because weapons are harder to get there, firearms from other places can attract three times their original price, authorities say.

The investigation, which relied on Rock Hill and Sanford police, as well as the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, used wiretaps to follow Campbell and Walker.

The arrests – 19 in all – began Aug. 2. About 15 percent of the guns covered by the investigation are believed to have been stolen.

According to the indictment, Campbell periodically argued with his suppliers over what he paid them. In another exchange, Warquisha Michaux, whom authorities dubbed “Choppers,” sent a text message urging Campbell to buy ammunition, too.

“Wats tha point of a gun if u ain’t got the ammo mite as well get a stick,” she wrote.

In another text, according to the indictment, she called the bullets “cop killers.”

Meanwhile, her brother, Larick, appears to have felt Campbell was short-changing him. During an April 23 phone call, Campbell told Larick Michaux to quit complaining about his cut, that Campbell was taking all the risks and Michaux did not have to worry about police ever learning his name.

On that last point Campbell misspoke. Larick Michaux is now jailed in New York on $1 million bond and has a court date Dec. 12. Researcher Maria David contributed to this story.

Gordon: 704-358-5095
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