WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) – A 19-year-old Waterbury man has been sentenced to 5 and a half years in federal prison for illegal drug and firearm offenses in connection to his theft of an off-duty state trooper’s car.

According to court documents and statements, the matter stems from an ongoing investigation into gangs, drug trafficking, and the possession of illegal firearms in Waterbury.

On Jan. 18, 2021, Ralph Ernest, a Paybacc Crypts gang member, stole a car belonging to an off-duty state trooper. The car contained three shotguns and FBI credentials, according to the authorities.

Ernest was arrested the following day after officers located him in the stolen car and recovered a 9mm handgun with an extended magazine loaded with 17 rounds of ammunition as well quantities of heroin, cocaine and marijuana.

Police said two of the stolen shotguns were recovered soon after Ernest’s arrest from one of his gang associates but the third stolen gun and FBI credentials were never found.

Ernest was detained after his arrest and on April 7 of this year, he pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin and one count of possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Northern Connecticut Gang Task Force, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Connecticut State Police, the Waterbury Police Department and the Wolcott Police Department.