October 25, 2011
By Jonathan Dienst, Shimon Prokupecz and Joe Valiquette
“Here is another example of New York’s finest at work. This comes just after a NYPD cop plead guilty to planting drugs on people just so he could make arrests. I thought police were supposed to serve and protect, not harass and hurt.” –Chris KTRN
Eight NYPD officers and one New Jersey corrections officer have been arrested on charges that they were running a gun-smuggling ring that trafficked more than $1 million in illegal weapons and stolen goods.
The officers arrested include five active-duty officers assigned to Brooklyn and three retired NYPD officers, although two of the retired officers were active when committing the alleged crimes, prosecutors said. All those arrested were picked up by FBI agents and NYPD Internal Affairs investigators early Tuesday.
According to the criminal complaint, some of those arrested smuggled 20 firearms as recently as Sept. 22. The cache included three M-16 rifles, one shotgun and 16 handguns, most of which had their serial numbers removed.
One officer bragged to an informant in July, as an associate displayed a shotgun for sale, that it was a “sample” and that they could get anything “from A to Z.”
The allegations are no doubt troubling for the NYPD, whose commissioner, Ray Kelly, has joined with Mayor Bloomberg in speaking out on illegal guns as a nationwide scourge that threatens public safety, particularly that of police officers.
Several of those arrested are also accused of illegally transporting other stolen goods. The group is accused of transporting stolen slot machines from Atlantic City, N.J., to Port Chester, N.Y., in March. Two months later, they allegedly stole more than 200 cases of cigarettes from trucks in Virginia and hauled them to New York.
A common tactic, prosecutors said, included breaking into tractor-trailers that were hauling cigarettes.
At one point while transporting stolen slot machines, one of the officers said to an informant, “Listen, when you’re doing stuff like this you gotta be intelligent … you gotta set it up where if I’m a cop on the side of the road, am I gonna stop that Ryder truck there?”
The same officer later said all the policemen participating in the slot machine scheme were “risking a lot for a little,” the complaint said.
“They know what’s going, and how much trouble they could get in, and what they’re risking,” he said. “They’re risking a lot.”
The investigation involved interviews with the informant, undercover work, surveillance, and intercepted phone conversations.
Most of the officers worked out of the 68th Precinct, which serves the Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton neighborhoods.
One officer who allegedly participated in cigarette smuggling expressed concern about trafficking weapons, saying at one point he was fine “as long as there’s no drugs and guns involved.”
Before the details were unsealed, a PBA spokesman declined comment, saying he was unaware of the specific charges as well as which officers were being charged.
In all, 12 people are charged with multiple federal conspiracy counts expected to be announced later Tuesday by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and FBI officials.
The alleged NYPD corruption arrests come as other officers could also be charged this week in a separate ticket-fixing investigation headed by the Bronx District Attorney’s office.
Interestingly, the criminal complaint in the gun-smuggling case indicates that the investigation began in late 2009, when the informant was introduced to one of the officers as a person who could “fix” his traffic tickets. The informant then developed a relationship with that officer.
Officials have said more than a dozen NYPD officers could face charges in the ticket-fixing case, including some police union delegates.
In the gun-smuggling case, the suspects are expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan on the charges.