NYPD OFFICER WHO LED CONSPIRACY TO DISTRIBUTE FIREARMS AND STOLEN GOODS PLEADS GUILTY IN MANHATTAN FEDERAL COURT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday February 6, 2012
Defendant Conspired with Others to Distribute M-16 Rifles and Handguns with Altered
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that WILLIAM MASSO, a New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) Officer, pled guilty today to participating in a scheme involving the illegal interstate transportation of firearms and stolen goods. He was on active duty when he committed the offenses to which he pled guilty. MASSO was the leader of a group comprised of other active and retired NYPD Officers and others that conspired to transport firearms, including M-16 rifles and handguns with altered serial numbers, stolen cigarettes, and other counterfeit goods across state lines. MASSO pled guilty in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “William Masso brought dishonor and disrepute to his fellow officers and was willing to endanger others for his own personal gain. With today’s guilty plea, the NYPD, which is the finest police force in the world, is one step closer to putting this sorry episode behind it.”
According to the Complaint, the plea agreement, the four-count Information to which Masso pled, and statements made in court:
In late 2009, MASSO met a confidential informant (“CI”) who was working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”). During conversations over the next several months, MASSO expressed an interest in obtaining and selling cigarettes and other contraband. At the direction of law enforcement, the CI began to supply MASSO with cigarettes that he described as having been stolen from out of state. MASSO subsequently sold the cigarettes he received from the CI.
In the Spring of 2010, the CI and MASSO discussed whether MASSO could assist the CI and his purported boss, who actually was an undercover law enforcement agent (“UC-1”), with the transportation and sale of stolen goods. MASSO agreed to do so, saying that he could recruit both active and retired police officers to participate in the scheme.
From September 2010 to October 2011, the FBI supplied MASSO and his co-conspirators with goods that they were led to believe were stolen. MASSO and his co-conspirators transported the goods, including three M-16 rifles, one shotgun, and 16 handguns - the majority of which had been defaced to remove or alter the serial number - 12 slot machines, thousands of cartons of cigarettes, and other counterfeit merchandise across state lines. In total, the goods that MASSO and his team illegally transported carried a street value of approximately $1 million.
In preparing for, and carrying out this scheme, the defendants specifically discussed using their credentials and knowledge as law enforcement officers. For example, in a meeting on March 24, 2011, MASSO explained that the men should carry their law enforcement badges during the operation and, if stopped, should say they were police officers working off-duty to deliver items another person had purchased at an auction.
In addition, in July 2011, MASSO conspired to sell a shotgun to UC-1 for $2,000. He was allegedly assisted by two other co-conspirators, Anthony Santiago and Michael Gee. After providing the shotgun, MASSO told UC-1 that the gun was just a “sample” and that they could get anything “from A to Z.” A few months later, in September 2011, MASSO, again with the alleged assistance of some of his other co-conspirators, transported the firearms – all of which had been rendered inoperable by the FBI – from New Jersey to Long Island. He displayed his NYPD jacket by hanging it so that it was visible through his car’s window during the trip.
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MASSO, 48, of Brooklyn, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport firearms interstate, one count of conspiracy to transport defaced firearms interstate, one count of conspiracy to sell a firearm to an out-of-state resident, and one count of conspiracy to transport and receive stolen merchandise. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. MASSO has also agreed to a money judgment of $50,000 representing the amount of the crime proceeds and his interest in the three guns seized from him at the time of his arrest. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Koeltl on June 15, 2012 at 11:00 a.m.
MASSO, formerly of the 68th precinct in Brooklyn, was originally charged in a four-count Complaint along with co-conspirators: Eddie Goris and John Mahoney who were also active-duty NYPD Officers in the 68th precinct; Ali Oklu, who was an active-duty NYPD Officer working as a member of the Brooklyn South Task Force; Gary Ortiz, who was an active-duty NYPD Officer working in Brooklyn's 71st precinct; Joseph Trischitta, Marco Venezia, and Richard Melnik, all of whom are now retired NYPD Officers who worked in the 68th precinct. Also charged in the Complaint were former NYC Department of Sanitation Police Officer Anthony Santiago, then active-duty New Jersey Corrections Officer David Kanwisher, and associates Michael Gee and Eric Gomer. The charges against all of the co-conspirators are merely accusations and these defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI and the Internal Affairs Bureau of the NYPD.
This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit and the Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Carrie H. Cohen, Brent S. Wible, and Amanda Kramer are in charge of the prosecution.