NORRISTOWN – Two Philadelphia adults and 11 teenagers have been charged in connection with three burglaries and an attempted break-in at gun stores in Montgomery and Bucks counties, in which nearly 100 firearms were stolen.
The three burglaries, which resulted in 93 stolen guns, and the attempted burglary occurred between September 24 and November 20, 2022 at gun stores in the townships of Hatboro and Springfield in Montgomery County and in the townships of Warwick and New Britain in Bucks County . according to court records.
Angel C. Mason, 40, of the 5500 block of Poplar Street, was charged with corrupt organizations, possession of prohibited firearms, firearms not carried without a license, theft by unlawful possession, criminal use of a communications device, tampering with or counterfeiting physical evidence and conspiracies. Mason has posted bail and remains at large pending a preliminary hearing.
Donte Purnell, 22, of block 7700 of Olympus Place, was charged with corrupt organizations,
receipt of stolen property, sale to an unauthorized acquirer, criminal use of a communications facility, and tampering or falsification of physical evidence and remains free, after posting bail, to await a preliminary hearing.
Liv Hall, of the 5100 block of Parrish Street, who was 17 at the time of the alleged incidents, was charged with the seriousness of the crime as an adult. Hall, who has now turned 18, faces corrupt organizations and gun-related charges and remains in custody on independent charges, according to Philadelphia authorities.
Elijah Terrell, 16, of the 5500 block of Poplar Street, was charged with corrupt organization and related felonies and was taken to the Montgomery County Youth Center to await a preliminary hearing. Terrell was charged with the seriousness of the alleged crime as an adult.
Nine other youths, all from West Philadelphia, between the ages of 14 and 17, have also been charged in connection with the crime series, but their cases are being tried in juvenile court.
The arrests were announced Wednesday by Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub, Special Agent for the Philadelphia Division of the Federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau Eric DeGree and Michael Pitkow, chief of the Springfield Township Police Department in Montgomery County.
“These defendants brazenly broke into gun stores and stole nearly 100 firearms, then sold and shipped them widely throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware,” Steele said. “With 60 firearms missing, we still do not know the extent of the damage from this corrupt organization’s criminal activities, including shootings and murders.”
Detectives claimed the stolen firearms were quickly distributed and passed illegally between members of the corrupt organization and to others, resulting in some of the stolen guns being used in other crimes.
“These arrests have made our communities safer and are a result of excellent joint investigation with our many local, state and federal law enforcement partners,” Steele added.
Weintraub agreed with Steele that the crimes were “brazen.”
“Together we fight hard every day against outlaw criminals who steal and use criminal weapons to terrorize our communities regardless of whose borders they cross. And we will not rest. More will follow,” said Weintraub.
All of the burglaries occurred overnight between 2 a.m. and 4:30 a.m., according to the criminal complaint, which was filed by Montgomery County Detective Drew Marino, Springfield Township Detective Stephen Craig and Bucks County Detective Phil Kulan.
In a 4:22 am Sept. 24 burglary at Founding Fathers Outfitters on the 9200 block of Ridge Pike in the Lafayette Hill neighborhood of Springfield Township, 26 firearms were stolen, according to the criminal complaint. Six of the guns were recovered, including one used in a Philadelphia shooting and another found on a suspect involved in a Sept. 29, 2022 murder in Philadelphia, authorities said.
A 4:20 a.m. Nov. 12 burglary at the Target World Gun Shop in the Chalfont area of New Britain Township, Bucks County, resulted in the theft of 32 pistols and 8 rifles, 10 of which were seized by law enforcement, according to court records.
An attempted break-in at 2:15 a.m. on Nov. 20 at the Continental Armory on the South York Road unit block in Hatboro was cut short when a person heard glass shatter and called 911, according to court documents.
Finally, a 2:41 a.m. November 20 burglary at Tanner’s Sports Center on the 2300 block of York Road in Warwick Township, Bucks County, resulted in the theft of 27 firearms, 16 of which were seized by law enforcement, including one that was used by law enforcement allegedly used during a December 14 armed robbery in Pennsauken, NJ
During the three successful break-ins, the suspects, after gaining access to the gun shops, smashed display cases and stole numerous firearms before fleeing.
“Approximately 33 of the 93 firearms were recovered through search warrants and arrests. That leaves 60 firearms that were illegally transferred and are still on the streets endangering the citizens of Pennsylvania and surrounding states,” detectives wrote in the criminal complaint. “The sheer number of outstanding firearms creates a clear and present danger to the public and law enforcement agencies who are encountering an ever-increasing number of youth with firearms.”
Investigators used a variety of investigative techniques, including forensic examination of cell phones and social media posts, search warrants, physical surveillance and questioning to solve the case.
It was determined that some of the suspects in the burglaries were linked to a street gang in the Philadelphia neighborhood known as “54th Street/OT4” with criminal activities including vehicle theft, robbery, burglary and “a heavy emphasis on guns” in Violence was linked,” detectives wrote in court filings.
“This group has a strong social media presence that promotes/influences gun violence against other factions/groups throughout Philadelphia. This is particularly prevalent in the images and lyrics included in their music videos, and this type of music is commonly referred to as “drill music,” detectives claimed.