Editor’s Note: The following article illustrates the close relation between cigarette trafficking and arms trafficking.
From: WABC TV
NEW YORK (WABC) — The bust of a gun trafficking ring snared 12 people, including eight current and former NYPD officers, as well as a corrections officer from New Jersey.
Five current and three retired NYPD officers will be arraigned Tuesday on federal charges including conspiracy to transport firearms across state lines, conspiracy to transport defaced firearms across state lines, conspiracy to sell firearms across state lines and conspiracy to transport and receive stolen property across state lines. Also arrested are a former New Jersey state corrections officer, a former officer with the city’s Department of Sanitation Police and two of his friends.
Police say the suspects trafficked more than a dozen illegal handguns, as well as M-16 rifles and shotguns. All the current NYPD officers under arrest are patrolmen assigned to Brooklyn. Their role was apparently to use their status as police officers to protect the illegal shipment of goods and weapons.
The arrests were made by FBI agents, who first uncovered the case, and investigators from the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau. They were the result of a lengthy undercover operation by both agencies.
Current NYPD officers William Masso, Eddie Goris, Ali Oklu and Gary Ortiz were charged with transporting defaced firearms and aided in the transportation of stolen slot machines and cigarettes.
Another current NYPD officer, John Mahoney, who is assigned to the 68th Precinct in Brooklyn, allegedly aided in the transportation of the stolen slot machines.
Joseph Trischitta and Marco Venezia are retired NYPD officers who were active and assigned to the 68th Precinct for part of the time that they are accused of transporting the defaced firearms, stolen slot machines and cigarettes. Former NYPD officer Richard Melnik, who was also assigned to the 68th Precinct, was retired when he committed similar crimes, prosecutors said.
Former New Jersey State Correction Officer David Kanwisher, who falsely claimed to be a New Jersey State Police trooper, was also accused of the illegal transportation of cigarettes, slot machines and cigarettes.
Anthony Santiago, a former officer with the city Department of Sanitation Police, was also charged, along with two friends he allegedly recruited into the scheme. Police say Michael Gee received numerous deliveries of the stolen cigarettes and Eric Gomer aided in the transportation of stolen slot machines and $500,000 in stolen cigarettes.
Authorities say the operation started in 2009, when a confidential informant looking for someone to fix his traffic tickets was introduced to Masso. The case does not appear linked to the current NYPD ticket probe in the Bronx.
Masso, along with two co-defendants, apparently sold a shotgun to an undercover FBI agent. After that, the undercover agent sold inoperable weapons, including the M-4 assault rifle, to the defendants.
On September 22, officials say three of the officers transported three M-16 rifles, one shotgun and 16 handguns from New Jersey across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn. Some of the serial numbers of the weapons were defaced, in an apparent effort to prevent them from being traced back to their source, possibly because they were to be used in a crime.
The suspects are also accused of transporting stolen slot machines from Atlantic City to Port Chester in March. In May, they allegeldy stole more than 200 cases of cigarettes, worth $500,000, from trucks in Virginia and transported them to Long Island.