Pair charged with 36 felony counts stemming from illegal firearms trafficking investigation
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced that two individuals from Pawtucket have been charged by way of criminal information in Providence County Superior Court with 36 felony counts alleging the pair trafficked multiple illegal firearms and possessed several others, including a ghost gun with a large capacity magazine, between 2020 and 2021.
Brian Watson (age 33/P2-2021-3462AG) and Zaira Lozada (age 32/P2-2021-3462BG) were arrested on April 27, 2021, following a months-long investigation by the Pawtucket Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) into illegal firearms trafficking in the greater Pawtucket area.
Watson is charged with four counts of possession of a firearm after a previous conviction for a domestic violence offense, possession of a ghost gun, four counts of possession of a pistol without a license, three counts of conspiracy, five counts of selling a concealable weapon without proper paperwork, one count of selling a pistol to a prohibited person, and two counts of solicitation.
Lozada is charged with one count of possession of a ghost gun, ten counts of selling a concealable weapon without proper paperwork, six counts of selling a pistol to a prohibited person, three counts of conspiracy, five counts of providing false information to purchase a firearm, and possession of methamphetamine.
Watson and Lozada are scheduled for a pre-arraignment conference on January 12, 2022, in Providence County Superior Court.
“This case has all the attributes of what is driving urban violent crime: the trafficking of multiple firearms to convicted felons, the possession and use of difficult to trace ghost guns, the proliferation of ammunition among criminals like it’s candy, and the use of high-capacity magazines,” said Attorney General Neronha. “I am grateful to the many law enforcement agencies involved – in particular the Pawtucket Police Department, whose proactive investigatory work enabled us to get these illegal firearms off the street and these defendants charged with serious offenses before additional harm could be done.”
As alleged in the criminal information, Pawtucket Police and ATF executed a search warrant at an apartment on Broadway in Pawtucket where they seized multiple illegal firearms, including: a Polymer80 9mm semi-automatic ghost gun with a 30-round large capacity magazine; a Radical Firearms RF-15 5.56mm pistol; a Ruger LCP .380 semi-automatic pistol; a Springfield Armory XD45 semi-automatic pistol; several hundred rounds of various types of ammunition and firearms parts; and methamphetamine.
"Our goal is to target violent crime in our community and get illegal weapons and drugs off of our streets," said Pawtucket Acting Public Safety Director Chief Tina Goncalves. "The work with the ATF and Attorney General's office on this and all cases is essential to reducing crime in our city.”
It is also alleged that Watson and Lozada sold at least a further six firearms to six individuals between 2020 and 2021, including to those who are legally prohibited from possessing firearms. The alleged acts occurred primarily in the city of Pawtucket, and several acts occurred in the city of Warwick, and town of Glocester.
“Straw purchasers and firearm traffickers enable unlawful possession of guns and the violence that may follow,” said James M. Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Boston Field Division. “Fighting violent crime is a top priority for the ATF, and this inter-agency collaboration between our local, state and federal partners – and the resulting arrests – goes a long way toward addressing gun violence by removing firearms from our streets and those willing to obtain them illegally.”
Recently, the Attorney General announced an initiative by the Providence Police Department, RIAG, ATF, Pawtucket and Central Falls Police Departments and the Department of Corrections to proactively target violent crime and firearms trafficking in the greater Providence Area. While the start of the investigation pre-dated Pawtucket’s involvement with the violent crime task force, following the deputization of a Pawtucket Detective, the Department was able to investigate and present additional charges from the defendant’s conduct in Warwick and Glocester.
Detective Smith of the Pawtucket Police Department, deputized by the Office of the Attorney General; Special Agent Justin Delaney of the ATF; and Assistant Attorney General Joseph J. McBurney of the Office of the Attorney General are leading the investigation and prosecution of the case.