Thursday, August 30, 2012

New York City Police Officers Charged in $1 Million Gun-Running Conspiracy

New York City Police Officers Charged in $1 Million Gun-Running Conspiracy

by Don Jeffrey,
October 25th 2011 1:43 PM

New York City police officers were among 12 men charged by federal prosecutors in a gun-running scheme, allegedly conspiring to transport M-16 rifles and handguns with defaced serial numbers across state lines as part of a $1 million conspiracy.

The accused, which included eight active duty and retired police officers, also sought to transport stolen cigarettes and slot machines, according to a complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court. Five of the accused are currently employed by the NYPD, the government said. Conversations recorded by an FBI informant revealed the conspiracy, according to the filing.

In one recording, New York City Police Officer William Masso told the informant he could provide current and former police officers for the scheme, the government said.

“Whatever he wants we get,” Masso said on the recorded conversation, according to the complaint. “You want a guy who beat the s–t out of somebody who bothers him, we got that. We got cops with vests and guns.”

Two of the defendants told a government informant they could provide firearms, according to the complaint. In September, they transported three M-16 rifles, a shotgun and 16 handguns, most of which had their serial numbers removed or altered, from New Jersey to New York, the government said. Masso took the weapons in a duffle bag in his car to a warehouse on New York’s Long Island, according to the complaint.

Besides Masso, the active-duty NYPD officers charged are Eddie Goris, Ali Oklu, Gary Ortiz and John Mahoney. The former police officers are Joseph Trischitta, Marco Venezia and Richard Melnik. The defendants include a New Jersey corrections officer, David Kanwisher.
Confidential Informant

“The defendants — most of whom are active duty or former law enforcement officers in the New York City area — exploited their experience and credentials to assist in a variety of schemes involving the illegal interstate transportation of goods,” prosecutors said in court papers.

In 2009, the confidential informant contacted Masso about a plan to fix traffic tickets, according to the complaint. The informant learned that Masso was interested in obtaining and selling contraband goods, prosecutors said. Masso told the informant he had made $5,000 a week selling stolen cigarettes, according to the complaint signed by Special Agent Kenneth Hosey of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Alleged Scheme

The defendants received more than $100,000 in cash for their role in the alleged scheme, Manhattan U.S. Attorney said today in an e-mailed statement.

Representatives of the New York City police department didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment on the charges.

The defendants agreed to transport what they believed were stolen slot machines, estimated to be worth as much as $500,000, from Atlantic City, New Jersey, to New York, according to the complaint. They also broke into tractor-trailers in Virginia and stole what they believed were 270 cases of cigarettes worth $500,000, which had been supplied by an undercover source through the FBI.

The cigarettes were transported to a storage facility on New York’s Long Island. Earlier this month, Masso met an undercover source at a New York hotel and paid him $147,600 in cash as the source’s share of the cigarette heist, according to the complaint.

The case is USA v. Masso, 11-2730, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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