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Jamaica woman gets 10-year sentence for trafficking illegal firearms using the ‘Iron Pipeline’ to Queens: DA

Aug. 8, 2023 By Bill Parry

A Jamaica woman was sentenced on Aug. 7 to a decade in prison for being the ringleader of a gang that sold illegal guns and ammunition brought to Queens from the south along the notorious “Iron Pipeline” via Interstate 95, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office.

Jessica Heylinger, 39, of Lakewood Avenue, pleaded guilty in Queens Supreme Court on July 11 to criminal sale of a firearm in the first degree and conspiracy in the fourth degree. Heylinger was the main defendant and principal dealer of weapons in the case that had been dubbed “Operation Tiger” by the NYPD.

An NYPD display shows Jamaica’s Jessica Heylinger at the heart of Operation Tiger.Photo by Dean Moses

Woodside resident Sharod King, Heylinger’s co-defendant and the sole salesman of guns to an undercover officer, had previously pleaded guilty to criminal sale of a firearm in the first degree and was sentenced in May to nine years in prison. Additional co-defendants Mitchell Myree, of Jamaica, and Laquan Benson, from Richmond, Virginia, previously pleaded guilty in connection to the case.

According to the charges, the investigation into Heylinger’s gun-trafficking ring began in September 2019 when King sold an undercover police officer a handgun and two large-capacity ammunition feeding devices.

In December 2019, the NYPD began a court-authorized electronic surveillance on King’s mobile phone and during the investigation, which concluded in July 2020, the defendants sold an undercover police officer 23 guns in 13 separate transactions — most of which occurred in and around Astoria — as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition and more than 10 high capacity magazines.

All the weapons and ammunition that were sold by the ring were acquired by Heyliger, who brought them up from the south via the Iron Pipeline. The investigation into the trafficking ring lasted 10 months and was expanded to include Benson when Katz began serving as Queens district attorney.

“This defendant trafficked illegal lethal weapons with no regard for the bloodshed and misery they could visit upon our communities,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “She is being held accountable for her callous acts. We will not relent in our efforts to stop illegal weapons from coming into our communities.”

Queens Supreme Court Justice Stephanie Zaro sentenced Heylinger to 10 years in prison, plus five years post-release supervision.

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