Atlanta rapper among group accused of trafficking nearly 300 guns to Philadelphia

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

An Atlanta rapper and four other Georgians have been federally indicted in a gun trafficking scheme, accused of funneling nearly 300 illegally purchased firearms into Philadelphia, the justice department announced Tuesday.

Federal investigators began looking into the alleged scheme, headed up by rapper Fredrick Norman — aka Slowkey Fred — in October 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and recently unsealed court documents. Two months later, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives showed up at an Atlanta apartment where they believed Norman and co-defendant Brianna Walker stayed, according to a search warrant.

Norman was not there at the time, so agents spoke with Walker, who allegedly gave them permission to search her phone and admitted to buying 50-60 firearms and reselling them for up to $250 profit, the warrant states. As investigators searched her phone, they noticed a text conversation from a contact named “Fredina,” who they believed was Norman.

“Don’t say nun,” he allegedly texted her after she told him that ATF agents were at the apartment. “Just say u sold it at a gun show or sum.”

Norman then showed up at the apartment twice and fled upon seeing investigators before coming back a third time and agreeing to talk, according to court records. He then allegedly admitted to dealing firearms without a license.

In an interview with NBC10 Philadelphia, Norman said he couldn’t talk about the charges he is facing, but he described himself as a “gun enthusiast,” an interest he said he gained after attending his first gun show in early 2020.

“I never knew how open guns was in Georgia, like the whole process threw me off. You walk in and there’s a police officer sitting at the front, and they don’t check for, you know, ID or carry licenses or if you’re a felon or nothin’,” he told the news station, adding that he’d never been to Philadelphia before.

Over the course of the investigation, agents found that between June and December 2020 the group purchased nearly 300 firearms from Atlanta area dealers — sporting goods stores, pawn shops and sellers at gun shows — the DOJ said. The group then transported or arranged for the transport of the firearms to Philadelphia to be sold on the black market, a value of about $116,000, authorities said.

Investigators were tipped off to a possible scheme after multiple illegal firearms were recovered in Philadelphia and were found to have been purchased by five people in Georgia, court records show. Some of the guns had been bought just two weeks earlier, and that short timeframe indicated possible trafficking.

In addition to Norman and Walker, three other Georgians — Charles O’Bannon, 24; Stephen Norman, 23; and Devin Church, 24, all of Villa Rica — and six Pennsylvanians were indicted. They all face charges of conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and making a false statement to a federally licensed firearms dealer. Two of the six Pennsylvanians are also charged with dealing firearms without a license.

“Preventing the illegal use and trafficking of firearms is a central focus of ATF’s strategy to combat violent crime and protect our communities,” Matthew Varisco, special agent of ATF’s Philadelphia division, said in a statement. “Illegally purchased firearms often end up in the hands of violent offenders and affect communities near and far. Ensuring firearms traffickers are aggressively investigated and swiftly brought to justice will remain a top priority for our firearms trafficking task force. And this collaborative effort between all of our law enforcement counterparts is a prime example of such.”

The Department of Justice has announced strategies to crack down on violent crime, including the trafficking of firearms through the “‘iron pipeline’ — the illegal flow of guns sold in mostly Southern states, transported up the East Coast, and found at crime scenes in northeastern cities like ours,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Jennifer Williams said in a statement.

Norman did not respond when asked by NBC10 Philadelphia whether he felt responsible for contributing to gun violence, but he did tell the station, “I do care about harm being brought towards people, ‘cause I’m not an advocate of violence.”

If convicted, Norman and nine other defendants face a maximum of five years in prison. Two Pennsylvania brothers, accused of handling the sales of the firearms, face a possible sentence of up to 10 years.