FORMER NYPD OFFICER AND NEW JERSEY CORRECTIONS OFFICER PLEAD GUILTY IN MANHATTAN FEDERAL COURT TO CONSPIRING TO DISTRIBUTE FIREARMS AND STOLEN GOODS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday February 15, 2012
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that MARCO VENEZIA, a former New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) Officer, and DAVID KANWISHER, a corrections officer in New Jersey, each pled guilty today to participating in a scheme to illegally transport firearms, including M-16 rifles and handguns, and stolen goods across state lines. VENEZIA pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein, and KANWISHER pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “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.”
According to the Complaint, the plea agreements, the Informations to which VENEZIA and KANWISHER each pled, and statements made in court:
From September 2010 to October 2011, VENEZIA and KANWISHER participated in a scheme to transport firearms and what they believed were stolen goods, including slot machines, cigarettes and other merchandise, across state lines. VENEZIA was an active-duty NYPD Officer who worked in Brooklyn’s 68th precinct for part of the time that he participated in the conspiracy. At all times, KANWISHER was a corrections officer in New Jersey. The leader of the conspiracy was William Masso, who was an active-duty NYPD Officer in Brooklyn’s 68th precinct. As part of the scheme, VENEZIA, 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. In total, the goods they 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 told VENEZIA and KANWISHER that they 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. At that same meeting, KANWISHER discussed a potential problem using a certain brand of rental truck to transport the merchandise since law enforcement is trained to look for that type of truck in connection with potential criminal activity. He later discussed with MASSO how he would assist anyone who was pulled over by law enforcement.
During his guilty plea, VENEZIA admitted that he had knowingly transported what he believed were stolen cigarettes, slot machines, and other merchandise across state lines and had willfully transported firearms across state lines, in violation of his obligations as a NYPD Officer.
During his guilty plea, KANWISHER also admitted that he had knowingly transported what he believed were stolen cigarettes, slot machines, and other merchandise across state lines and had willfully transported firearms across state lines.
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VENEZIA, 46, of Brooklyn, New York, and KANWISHER, 39, of Tuckerton, New Jersey, each pled guilty today to one count of conspiracy to transport firearms interstate and one count of conspiracy to transport and receive stolen merchandise. They each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. 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.
VENEZIA is scheduled to be sentenced on June 21, 2012 at 3:00 p.m., and KANWISHER is scheduled to be sentenced on May 25, 2012 at 3:00 p.m.
Masso pled guilty on February 6, 2012 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, 2012 at 11:00 a.m.
The following defendants were also charged in connection with the scheme: Eddie Goris and John Mahoney, who were 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 and Richard Melnik, who were retired NYPD Officers who had worked in Brooklyn’s 68th precinct; Anthony Santiago, who was a former NYC Department of Sanitation Police Officer; and associates Michael Gee and Eric Gomer. The charges against these co-conspirators are merely accusations, and the 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 and Complex Frauds units. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carrie H. Cohen, Brent S. Wible, and Amanda Kramer are in charge of the prosecutions.