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Final conviction in gun-trafficking ring linked to weapon that killed cop

A Mississippi jury recently convicted a soldier for taking part in a gun-trafficking operation that sold the weapon used in the murder of Chicago Police Officer Thomas Wortham IV.

Garrion Liggins, a Mississippi Army National Guard soldier, was the last of five people convicted in the case.

Liggins, a student at Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss., acted as a “straw purchaser” for ringleader Quawi “Red” Gates, a Chicagoan who attended the same college.

On March 30, a federal jury found Liggins guilty of making a false statement in connection with the 2008 purchase of a 9mm handgun for Gates at a Mississippi pawn shop.

Liggins lied on a federal form that he was buying the gun for himself, when he actually purchased it for Gates in exchange for cash.

A different straw purchaser bought the gun used in the May 19, 2010, murder of Wortham on the South Side.

In 2007, Michael Elliott, a fork-lift driver, bought a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson for Gates at the pawn shop in exchange for $100.

The Smith & Wesson was later found at the scene of Wortham’s shooting in the 8400 block of South King Drive. Tests confirmed it was the gun used to kill him.

Wortham was off-duty when four men tried to steal his motorcycle outside his parents’ home. He was shot in an exchange of gunfire, officials said.

Elliott has pleaded guilty to his role as a straw purchaser and was sentenced to six months in prison. Gates, an Englewood native, pleaded guilty to gun trafficking and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Chicago Police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted the investigation, code-named Operation Rusty Gates.

ATF spokesman Thomas Ahern said Gates was supplying guns to the Gangster Disciples. Authorities have recovered 19 guns tied to Gates’ ring — and two were used in shootings other than Wortham’s, Ahern said.

There was a quick turnaround from the time the guns were sold to the time they were used in crimes, Ahern said.

“This was a steady, fast and furious flow of guns from this crew,” Ahern said.

Two other people have also pleaded guilty in the case, including Jacquisha Denise Sims, who was sentenced to five years’ probation for making a false statement in connection with buying a handgun. Sims, a student at Rust College, told authorities she stashed some of the illegally purchased guns in her dorm room.

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