Federal inmate caught running black market machine gun trade behind bars, authorities say

A federal inmate released from a Louisiana prison last week is back behind bars after prosecutors in New York say police caught him running a black market gun trade through a phone smuggled into his cell.

Hayden Espinosa, 24, allegedly moderated a Telegram group named “3D Amendment,” a hub for 3D printing and trading guns and gun modifications, including auto sears, which authorities described as “illegal machine gun conversion devices.”

Auto sears are considered machine guns under federal law, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Court records show Espinosa was convicted of federal guns charges for 3D printing and selling similar devices through the mail in Texas in 2021.

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A still image taken from video posted to a YouTube channel linked to the suspect shows a man firing what appears to be a fully automatic weapon. (YouTube/3D Amendment)

A year later, investigators looking into a mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo discovered Espinosa once again, authorities said at a news briefing in Manhattan Tuesday morning.

A screenshot showing items listed for sale on the 3D Amendment Telegram group, according to federal investigators. (Manhattan District Attorney’s Office)

The suspect in the Tops Friendly Market massacre, Payton Gendron, was a member of the 3D Amendment Telegram group, authorities said. He was sentenced to life in prison last year after pleading guilty to domestic terrorism and hate crime charges for shooting 10 Black people and wounding three others in a meticulously plotted shooting spree that he livestreamed.

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Payton Gendron, then 18, of Conklin, N.Y., is taken into custody after a mass shooting in Buffalo killed 10 and wounded three more. The NYPD discovered Gendron was a member of Espinosa’s Telegram group. (Reuters)

After Espinosa’s release from prison June 4, Louisiana deputies immediately arrested him in the new case, authorities said.

Homeland Security Investigations New York Special Agent in Charge Ivan Arvelo said during the briefing that Espinosa’s Telegram group was a “clandestine chatgroup” that promoted neo-Nazi and anti-government ideology in addition to selling guns, gun parts and magazines.

Screenshots of an alleged “menu” list a single auto sear for an AR-15 rifle for $50 with a bulk discount of $500 for 20.

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Espinosa is accused of selling guns and gun modifications online while behind bars.  (Manhattan District Attorney’s Office)

Videos on Instagram and YouTube under 3D Amendment-related accounts include montages of people firing what appear to be automatic pistols and rifles.

“There’s no telling the bloodshed these weapons could have caused if placed in the wrong hands,” Arvelo said.

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While behind bars, Espinosa allegedly sold a gun, silencers and auto sears to an undercover NYPD officer who was monitoring the Telegram group, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleged at a news briefing Tuesday morning.

“While incarcerated, Hayden Espinosa allegedly sold guns and gun parts by using contraband electronic devices,” Bragg said in a statement. “Furthermore, we alleged Espinosa operated a Telegram channel that is a hub of ethnically and racially motivated extremist ideology.”

Espinosa allegedly shipped the items through the U.S. Postal Service. Photos posted on the 3D Amendment Instagram page show packed and labeled parcels.

Espinosa is due back in court June 24 for an arraignment on four counts of transporting a firearm, machine gun, silencer or disguised gun and one count of attempted criminal sale of a firearm in the third degree.

His contraband cellphones have been confiscated.

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