A rogue band of mostly Brooklyn-based New York City police officers who moonlighted as gunrunners were arrested by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) this past Tuesday.
The delinquent officers stand accused by the FBI and the United States Department of Justice of operating an elaborate million dollar criminal operation that involved the trafficking of weapons into New York City from New Jersey.
The gun ring had a membership of five active and three retired NYPD officers, two non-NYPD law enforcement officers and two civilians.
The rouge's gallery of gun runners included:
*William Masso, 47 of the NYPD's 68th precinct in Brooklyn
*John Mahoney, 26 of the 68th precinct
*Eddie Goris, 31 of the 68th precinct
*Marco Venezia, 46 - formerly of the 68th precinct (retired)
*Joseph Trischitta, 42 - formerly of the 68th precinct (retired)
*Richard Melnik, 42 - formerly of the 68th precinct (retired)
*Ali Oklu, 35 - NYPD's Brooklyn South Task Force
*Gary Ortiz, 27 - NYPD's 71st precinct in Brooklyn
*Anthony Santiago, 45 - former NYC Sanitation police officer
*Michael Gee, 40 - friend of Santiago (civilian)
*Eric Gomer, 28 - friend of Santiago (civilian)
*David Kanwisher, 38 - New Jersey correction officer
According to federal authorities, 18-year NYPD veteran Masso was the alleged ring leader and recruited many of the gun ring's members.
A criminal complaint filed at the Southern District of New York (SDNY)
in Lower Manhattan says Masso and his crew transported 20 firearms, including 16 handguns, a shotgun and three M-16 assault rifles from New Jersey to New York. The delinquent cops reportedly stashed the weapons at a warehouse on Long Island with intentions to sell them on the streets of New York City.
The officers defaced the serial numbers on the weapons so that none could be traced back to them if utilized in a crime.
However, FBI operatives supplied the rogue band of cops with the guns, all of which were rendered inoperable by the FBI though Masso and his crew didn't know that.
The gun running cops are also accused of transporting cigarettes, slot machines, clothing and other stolen merchandise across state lines from New Jersey into New York to fill their pockets.
The U.S. attorney's office said the defendants in the case are part of a smuggling conspiracy that began in 2009. While Masso and his crew thought they were moving stolen property and functioning weapons, the items were actually provided by the FBI, which disabled the guns.
According to the New York Daily News
, members of the group allegedly went to Virgina last May where they broke into a tractor-trailer outside a warehouse.
The group made off with over 200 cases of cigarettes worth $500,000. According to federal law enforcement officials, Masso and his team got $92,000 for that job. All told, they allegedly pocketed more than $170,000.
The FBI reportedly said that the dirty dozen gun runners held secret meetings in parking lots and hotel rooms.
According to police commissioner Ray Kelly, Masso instructed the men in his crew to wear their badges during their illicit operations so that if they were caught, they could say they were on police business.
Masso also sought to hire out his goons for criminal operations.
In secret FBI recordings revealed to the public, Masso is heard bragging to an FBI informant
I'm getting a good army set up here.
On another tape he is heard boasting
You want a guy who beats the s--t out of somebody who bothers him. We got that. We got cops with vests and guns.
The arrests of Masso and the other officers come at a rocky time for Kelly's NYPD which has been embroiled in numerous scandals which include a ticket fixing probe by the Bronx District Attorney's Office and a grand jury, an NYPD deputy inspector who was disciplined for improperly pepper-spraying Occupy Wall Street protesters, an officer arrested for a drunken gunpoint rape of a school teacher this past August and other woes.
However, the gun running scandal involving rogue NYPD officers is likely to especially sting as NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has become a rather outspoken and nationally recognized proponent of gun control over the past few years. Bloomberg has staked a sizable portion of his mayoral legacy on reducing the level of gun violence on the streets of New York.
On the morning of the arrests Bloomberg released a public statement in which he was quoted as saying
If the charges against the police officers arrested this morning prove true, it would be a disgraceful and deplorable betrayal of the public trust.
During a press conference held at the federal court in Lower Manhattan extolling the arrests made by federal officials, a demure commissioner Kelly referred to the criminal actions of Masso and his squad of delinquent cops as "a betrayal of the highest order of an officer's oath."
Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for SDNY
, also made a statement about the arrests at the conference
An officer who betrays his badge betrays every honorable officer as well as every member of the public.
Four other officers with ties to Masso were reportedly disciplined and placed on modified duty by NYPD supervision.
Masso Formerly Disciplined By NYPD For Being Mafia Sympathizer
Masso was disciplined by the NYPD in 1998 for exhibiting mafia sympathies.
Masso sent a letter to then-Manhattan supreme court justice Leslie Crocker Snyder pleading for leniency in sentencing his cousin Alphonse Malangone. As a Genovese crime family soldier Malangone faced up to 25 years and was eventually sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for racketeering.
Malangone, now out of prison, said he was stunned by Masso's arrest.
During an interview with local news publication, Newsday
, Malangone seemed to have little sympathy for Masso
He is a police officer, he should know better.
Masso and the rest of the rouges have been charged with: conspiracy to transport firearms interstate, conspiracy to transport defaced firearms interstate, conspiracy to sell a firearm to an out-of-state resident, and conspiracy to transport and receive stolen merchandise.
If convicted on all charges, the rogue cops could be sentenced to 20 years each in federal prison.