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Drug bust leads to gun store theft suspect

Mohammed Abdulwahhab (MDC)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

A recent undercover drug bust led federal agents to a 23-year-old man suspected of stealing 150 firearms from a West Side gun store in June as Albuquerque police were occupied dealing with widespread damage from unruly crowds in Downtown.

Mohammed Abdulwahhab, being prosecuted under Operation Legend, is in federal custody on two counts of distribution of cocaine and one count of possession or sale of a stolen firearm.

Authorities say Abdulwahhab came to the attention of authorities in May and, through multiple meetings, he sold large quantities of cocaine and at least three guns to an undercover federal officer.

Abdulwahhab allegedly bragged that he and others had stolen the guns during a break-in, and agents traced the weapons to the June 1 robbery of JCT Firearms on Old Coors, just south of Central, that netted 115 pistols and 35 rifles.

The robbery happened around 2:30 a.m. as police in riot gear dealt with a destructive crowd that lit fires, smashed windows and confronted officers Downtown in the hours that followed a Black Lives Matter protest.

Police step in to quell the crowds after widespread destruction June 1 in Downtown Albuquerque. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

Within days of the robbery, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives stepped in to help Albuquerque police on the case. The ATF offered a joint reward, alongside the National Shooting Sports Foundation, of $10,000 for information about the crime.

At the time, an ATF spokesman told the Journal that the thieves showed a “level of sophistication” by cutting the power to the store beforehand and disabling the alarms and security cameras.

An employee of JCT Firearms told the Journal on Wednesday that the alarms were actually working, because they ran on batteries, but “the whole problem was the riot was going on Downtown and police didn’t respond.”

The employee, who didn’t want to give his name, said security cameras caught more than one person during the break-in, but the store owners haven’t been given any more information by the ATF.

An ATF spokesman did not respond to questions from the Journal but said the investigation is ongoing.

According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court:

In May, a friend of Abdulwahhab offered to help the FBI gain information on his criminal activities – allegedly selling guns and drugs – in exchange for “monetary compensation” as well as “consideration” on state-level probation violation charges.

On May 18, the friend called Abdulwahhab, at the FBI’s direction, and asked to buy a kilo of cocaine and Abdulwahhab offered to introduce his source, calling them “the Mexicans.”

Then, on June 22, the friend introduced Abdulwahhab to an undercover federal officer who bought an ounce of cocaine from him. During the meeting, Abdulwahhab told the undercover officer that he sold drugs “in and out” of Albuquerque and had previously shot at multiple people “he perceived had disrespected him.”

On July 9, Abdulwahhab met with the undercover officer again to sell 9 ounces of cocaine and, during the meeting, Abdulwahhab showed the officer photos on his phone of guns “in brand new condition” that he and others had stolen from a store.

Abdulwahhab also said he had 20 hand grenades at his home that he bought from an “unknown person” for $20,000 and showed the officer a photo of a paint can full of several grenades.

The officer agreed to buy three pistols from Abdulwahhab for $3,400, and agents surveilled Abdulwahhab as he went to his home and returned with the guns. After selling the guns to the officer, agents confirmed the serial numbers matched those stolen during the gun store robbery.

During a final meeting on July 30, Abdulwahhab sold the undercover officer a pound of cocaine for $14,500.

Mohammed Abdulwahhab

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