By Staten Island Advance
A former NYPD police officer and a New Jersey corrections officer both pleaded guilty to federal charges yesterday of participating in a conspiracy run by law enforcement officers — including five Staten Islanders — to illegally transport assault rifles, stolen slot machines and cigarettes across state lines.
NYPD Officer Marco Venezia, 46, of Brooklyn and New Jersey Corrections Officer David Kanwisher, 39, of Tuckerton, N.J., both pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport firearms interstate and one count of conspiracy to transport and receive stolen merchandise.
In total, the goods they illegally transported carried a street value of approximately $1 million.
Venezia appeared before U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein, and Kanwisher appeared before U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest.
“As law enforcement officers, Marco Venezia and David Kanwisher were supposed to uphold the law, not break it. They betrayed their duties in order to make a quick profit, and now they will pay for their crimes,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York.
Both men face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Additionally, Venezia has agreed to a money judgment of $8,000, representing the amount of the crime proceeds and his interest in four guns seized from him at the time of his arrest.
Kanwisher has agreed to a money judgment of $18,000, representing the amount of the crime proceeds and his interest in one gun seized from him at the time of his arrest.
The leader of the conspiracy was William Masso, an active-duty NYPD Officer in the 68 Precinct. Masso was the leader of a group comprised of other active and retired cops and associates that conspired to transport assault rifles, stolen slot machines and cigarettes across state lines, authorities allege.
As part of the scheme, Venezia and Kanwisher and their co-conspirators helped transport three M-16 rifles, one shotgun, 16 handguns – the majority of which had been defaced to remove or alter the serial number – six slot machines, and thousands of cartons of cigarettes as well as various counterfeit merchandise, said court papers.
The Staten Islanders charged include current 68th Precinct Officer John Mahoney, 26; retired 68th Precinct Officers Joseph Trischitta and Richard Melnick, both 42, and two associates, Michael Gee, 40, and Eric Gomer, 28.
Starting in September 2010 through October 2011, the ring transported cigarettes and slot machines and guns for an informant and undercover law enforcement officer, who were posing as dealers in stolen goods, court papers allege.
Venezia is scheduled to be sentenced on at 3 p.m. on June 21 and Kanwisher is to be sentenced at 3 p.m. on May 25.
On Feb. 6, Masso pled guilty to engaging in conspiracies to transport defaced firearms interstate, sell a firearm to an out of state residence, and transport what he believed were stolen cigarettes, slot machines, and other merchandise across state lines. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl on June 15 at 11 a.m.
This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption and Complex Frauds units. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carrie H. Cohen, Brent S. Wible, and Amanda Kramer are in charge of the prosecutions.