A two-year federal gun and drug operation shows the value of confidential informants to officers.
On Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nebraska announced the end of Operation Brass Catcher, an effort that resulted in the convictions of 24 Omahans. Their sentences range from probation to decades in prison.
The operation culminated this month with the last of the convictions, but most of the arrests took place on June 13, 2017. Early that Tuesday, authorities served arrest warrants at locations across northeast and northwest Omaha.
Most of the arrests stemmed from interactions with confidential informants. According to court documents, an informant working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or Omaha police purchased marijuana, cocaine, rifles, shotguns and more than a dozen handguns in late 2016 and early 2017.
The majority of those convicted had gang affiliations and extensive criminal backgrounds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Court documents describe purchases from members of the 40th Avenue Crips, the Project/Hilltop Gangster Crips, the 33rd Street Crips and the 38th Street Hillside Bloods.
A May 2017 incident described in court records was typical. A confidential informant told an Omaha police officer that a member of the 40th Avenue Crips he knew as “Nasty Nate” had a gun for sale. Police gave the informant $950 from the ATF, outfitted him with recording devices and sent him into Nathaniel Cook’s house, where he bought a .38-caliber revolver. The next day, he went back with another $950 and bought a .45-caliber handgun.
Cook was convicted of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and sentenced to 20 years in Nebraska prison.
The public defender for a number of the defendants claimed that a single informant, arrested in October 2016 and subsequently encouraged to cooperate, was linked to most if not all of the arrests.
At least two of those arrested thought they knew who that informant was. After Mylon Mayfield was arrested for selling a shotgun to a confidential informant, he and Robert Cokes posted a video on Facebook naming the ATF informant and calling him a “snitch” and “rat.” They urged others to “smash him on sight.”
“Take that … tongue out and send it to his momma,” Cokes said on the video, according to the ATF. Cokes and Mayfield were convicted of witness tampering.
Law enforcement authorities said the operation eliminated some threats to public safety.
“This investigation involved federal agents and local law enforcement officers removing some very dangerous individuals from our streets,” U.S. Attorney Joe Kelly said.
George Lauder, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Kansas City Field Division, said, “This investigation has served as a wake-up call to those who would choose to bring gun violence into our neighborhoods.”
The arrests were made by the ATF, Omaha police, the U.S. Marshals Service, Council Bluffs police and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force.