FBI busts eight NYPD cops in $1 million smuggling ring
The FBI isn't counting these eight cops among New York's "Finest."
Five active and three retired NYPD officers were busted in an FBI sting for abusing the power of the badge to smuggle illegal guns -- including shotguns and M-16 rifles -- stolen cigarettes and stolen slot machines across state lines, a ring totaling more than $1 million in value, officials announced Tuesday.
The allegedly corrupt Brooklyn cops were collared by feds and NYPD internal affairs officers, and are charged with conspiracy to transport firearms and stolen merchandise across state lines, among other charges.
"An officer who betrays his badge betrays every honorable officer as well as every member of the public," Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly shared that sentiment.
"[This] was a betrayal of his oath of the highest order," he said. "The vast majority of police officers do outstanding work to protect the city ... A case like this is disheartening to the entire department."
According to the complaint, the defendants transported 20 firearms, including three M-16 rifles, a shotgun and 16 handguns, from New Jersey to New York, most of which were untraceable.
FBI operatives gave the men the guns, all of which were rendered inoperable by the FBI.
The alleged ringleader, William Masso, an officer of 18 years who worked in the 68th Precinct, instructed the others involved to wear their badges during the operations so that if they were caught they could say they were on police business, Kelly said.
The complaint alleges that Masso, 47, recruited younger members of the force to join him in the schemes, officials said, including Eddie Goris, 31, and John Mahoney, 26, both also of the 68th precinct.
The other NYPD officers were Ali Oklu, 35, of the Brooklyn South Task force, Gary Ortiz, 27, of the 71st Precinct, and three retired officers, Joseph Trischitta, 42, Marco Venezi, 46, and Richard Melnik, 42. Two other non-NYPD law enforcement officers were arrested, along with two civilians.
The arrests, which were the result of an undercover operation between the NYPD and the FBI that started in 2009, come at a rocky period for the force.
Earlier this month an officer was accused of trumping up charges against a black man then bragging about it, and a high-ranking officer is being investigated for pepper-spraying Occupy Wall Street protesters. And still, the ongoing ticket-fixing scandal involving 17 officers is making it way through the court.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has long taken strong measures to combat illegal arms smuggling, condemned the officers, saying the city "has lost too many people -- and too many police officers -- to criminals who buy guns illegally."
Follow reporter Tim Herrera on Twitter: @tim_herrera