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Man charged with selling guns from prison had contact with Buffalo mass shooter Payton Gendron

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(NEW YORK) — A 24-year-old Texas man was charged on Tuesday with brazenly selling illegal guns and firearm parts while locked up in a Louisiana prison. Prosecutors revealed he communicated with self-professed white supremacist Payton Gendron before the teenager’s 2022 racially motivated mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket.

The suspect, Hayden Espinosa of Corpus Cristie, Texas, allegedly sold weapons and gun components to an undercover New York City police officer in a case Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragged described on Tuesday as the “confluence of guns and extremism.”

“It is very, very disturbing,” Bragg said at a news conference in which he announced the charges against Espinosa.

Espinosa was indicted on four felony counts of transporting a firearm, machine gun, silencers and a disguised gun, prosecutors said. He was also charged with felony attempted criminal sale of a firearm in the third degree.

It was unclear Tuesday if Espinosa has retained an attorney.

Investigators probing the May 14, 2022, Buffalo massacre at a Tops supermarket discovered a Telegram channel Espinosa allegedly operated from prison to peddle firearms and components from prison, including Glock handguns and devices dubbed “Glock switches” or “auto sears” used to modify a semiautomatic weapon into a fully automatic weapon, prosecutors said.

Espinosa allegedly used cellphones smuggled to him in prison to sell the firearms and components through the Telegram messaging app channel he called “3D Amendment,” which Bragg described as “a hub of ethnically and racially motivated extremist ideology.”

“The combination of extremism and firearms is incredibly dangerous and threatens the safety of New Yorkers,” said Bragg, adding that members of Espinosa’s Telegram channel were motivated by Neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology.

Members of the channel were also motivated by “accelerationism” — which authorities explained is “a belief that violence, including through obtaining firearms and weapons, is necessary to achieve a total collapse of the status quo and to create new extreme-right sociopolitical reality.”

Bragg said Espinosa’s Telegram channel attracted individuals, including Gendron, who stockpiled firearms and committed violence.

The NYPD’s Racially and Ethnically Motivated Extremism (REME) squad discovered Espinosa’s Telegram channel in May 2022 as they helped investigate the Buffalo mass shooting in which 10 Black people were gunned down and three others were injured, authorities said. Prosecutors did not say if Espinosa sold guns to Gendron.

“Espinosa and other members of the channel would advertise the sale of illegal firearms and gun parts, including silencers, high-capacity magazines, Glock-style handguns and auto sears,” according to a statement released Tuesday by prosecutors. “Several participants purchased firearms and parts from Espinosa and posted about the purchases in his channel,” according to a statement released Tuesday by prosecutors.

While incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex Pollock, a high-security prison in Grant Parish, Louisiana, Espinosa allegedly sold illegal guns and firearm parts to the undercover NYPD officers on three separate occasions between Aug. 7, 2023, and Nov. 13, 2023, according to the indictment.

At the time, Espinosa was serving a 33-month prison sentence for illegally selling and possessing Glock switches, officials said. Espinosa was released from federal prison on June 4 and immediately arrested by the Grant Parish Sheriff’s Office on the New York State Supreme Court indictment, officials said.

Among the items the undercover officer allegedly purchased from Espinosa were a Glock-style handgun and a 3D-printed untraceable AR-style “ghost gun,” authorities said. He’s also accused of selling the undercover officer two firearms silencers and attempting to sell a Glock-19 handgun to the officer, officials said.

“At the time when gun violence has devastated American families throughout the country, there is no telling the bloodshed these weapons could have caused if placed in the wrong hands,” said Ivan Arvelo, the special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York.

Besides selling illegal firearms and components from prison, Espinosa allegedly posted content on Telegram and his YouTube channel promoting white supremacist, neo-Nazi and anti-government extremist ideologies, officials said.

NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban praised the work of his department’s REME squad, saying, “Its existence underscores the urgency with which the NYPD and our law enforcement partners view the threat of far-right extremists. We will stop at nothing to keep New Yorkers safe by identifying and dismantling gun trafficking networks that are feeding the hate.”

Espinosa is scheduled to be arraigned in New York on June 24.

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