By ANN-MARIE MAY
POLICE arrested a Sawtell man, 27, and seized a number of illegal rifles in a series of early morning raids in the Coffs Harbour area yesterday.
The Sawtell landscaper is expected to appear at Coffs Harbour Local Court today, charged with several firearms offences.
At 6.20am, State Crime Command Firearms Crime Squad detectives, Coffs Harbour police and Dog Unit officers, executed seven search warrants at homes in Coffs Harbour and Sawtell and properties in Dorrigo, Hernani and Ebor.
They seized three unregistered rifles and ammunition at Hernani.
No person has been charged and inquiries are continuing.
A man, 28, is helping police with their inquiries after they found cash, cannabis and ammunition at Ebor.
The raids follow a seven-month investigation by Strike Force Soult into people allegedly involved in selling illegal guns, explosives and prohibited drugs.
Ahead of yesterday's operation, Strike Force Soult detectives seized three illegal guns, including two Berettas, which had allegedly been sold for more than $10,000.
On Christmas Eve, a Coffs Harbour man, 31,
was charged with several firearm and drug offences after a raid at his house.
The charges include the unauthorised sale of prohibited firearms and supplying cannabis.
Appearing in Coffs Harbour Local Court yesterday, he was refused bail and will reappear in court on January 25.
Police said people charged with trafficking firearms could face up to 14 years in jail.
Firearms Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec, said in Coffs Harbour yesterday his squad was committed to removing illegal guns from criminals.
He said that to find just one illegal handgun would be considered a success.
"We will vigorously and relentlessly pursue anyone who owns, sells or distributes illegal firearms," Mr Kerlatec said.
"Every gun taken off the streets makes the community safer for us all."
When asked if yesterday's raids were part of an operation to crack a larger ring, Mr Kerlatec said it appeared police had 'broken the back of this organisation' and were hopeful more arrests would be made and more firearms found.
He urged anyone with information about illegal firearms or related crime to contact Operation Vulcan on the free call number 1800 659 675.
"Operation Vulcan is an ongoing operation targeting those involved in the illegal trade of firearms," he said.
Rewards of up to $5000 are available for people who provide NSW police with information leading to a conviction for the illegal trade or possession of firearms.
Information supplied to Operation Vulcan is confidential.