Tuesday, February 28, 2012
FBI Busts 71st Precinct Officer for Gun Smuggling
Three former New York City police officers pleaded guilty on Monday to taking part in a scheme to illegally transport firearms across state lines. One of them, Gary Ortiz, 28, was an active-duty officer in the 71st Precinct in Crown Heights.
“As they admitted today, these police officers moonlighted as criminals, and even planned to use their badges to cover their illegal activity,” the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, said in a statement.
Gary Ortiz pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Manhattan to one count of conspiracy to transport firearms between states and one count of conspiracy to transport and receive stolen merchandise. Joseph Trischitta, 42, who worked in the 68th Precinct in Brooklyn during part of the plot, pleaded guilty to the same charges.
John Mahoney, 27, also from the 68th Precinct, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport and receive stolen merchandise. Richard Melnik, 43, who pleaded guilty last week to one count of conspiracy to transport and receive stolen merchandise, was a retired officer from the 68th Precinct.
According to court documents and statements made in court, from September 2010 to October 2011, Mr. Ortiz and Mr. Trischitta helped transport three M-16 rifles, one shotgun and 16 handguns from New Jersey to New York. Many had been defaced to remove or alter the serial number.
In another scheme, the officers — along with Mr. Mahoney, Mr. Melnik and others — helped transport what they believed to be stolen goods, including slot machines, counterfeit merchandise and thousands of cartons of cigarettes, across state lines. According to court documents, the goods carried a street value of about $1 million.
The charges stemmed from a sting operation in which firearms and other goods were provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation through a confidential informer and an undercover agent, both posing as participants in the scheme.
Six active-duty or former members of the Police Department have now pleaded guilty in connection with the case, with charges pending against two others.
Two associates and a corrections officer in New Jersey have also admitted to taking part in the scheme, and charges are pending against a former police officer for the city’s sanitation department.
Three weeks ago, the man whom prosecutors have called the ringleader of the group — William Masso, who was an active-duty officer in the 68th Precinct during the scheme — admitted to all four conspiracy counts against him, just months after members of the group were charged.