East Village man sentenced to 5 years in prison for building ghost guns in apartment

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By Dan Sears

A man who prosecutors say operated a “sophisticated ghost gun factory” in his East Village public housing apartment was sentenced to five years in prison in a Manhattan courtroom Monday.

Cliffie Thompson, 36, pleaded guilty to several weapons charges last fall for building homemade firearms, also known as ghost guns, in his home. Beyond his prison sentence, he will spend three years on post-release supervision, meaning he will have to check in with law enforcement and comply with certain conditions.

“Thanks to technology and low cost, these dangerous weapons are becoming easier to make, and can be deadly if they fall into the wrong hands,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement. “We will continue to hold those accountable who purposefully evade our strict gun laws.”

Thompson’s attorney, Lawrence Edward Wright, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thompson was arrested last January on charges that he assaulted his girlfriend, according to the Manhattan DA’s office. The next day, prosecutors say, law enforcement searched his home and found various gadgets and tools used to build homemade guns, including two 3D printers, a kiln, drills, wrenches and springs. Police also found five firearms, several partially completed 3D-printed guns and dozens of forged credit cards.

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Prosecutors indicted Thompson on 69 criminal charges. In November, he pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, third-degree criminal sale of a firearm and second-degree attempted criminal possession of a firearm.

It’s illegal in New York to possess or sell a homemade firearm. Unlike firearms sold at federally licensed stores, ghost guns lack serial numbers that law enforcement can use to link guns recovered at crime scenes with sales records — making it nearly impossible to trace a gun’s origin.

State lawmakers have proposed a bill to bar New Yorkers from building ghost guns with 3D printers and disseminating instructions. Bragg has told legislators the legislation would make it easier for his office to prosecute ghost gun cases.

Homemade firearms account for a small but growing fraction of guns seized in New York City, law enforcement data shows. The NYPD recovered about 850 ghost guns in 2022 and 2023, out of 13,500 firearms seized overall in the last two years, according to department data.

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The Manhattan DA’s office says its unit dedicated to ghost gun cases has confiscated more than 100 ghost gun parts and at least 90 completed firearms since the unit launched in 2020.

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