Two suspected gun traffickers sent a wide assortment of firearms from Georgia to New York City through the mail, officials said Thursday.
Arrested were Mark Winston, 39, of Macon, Ga., and Walter Dandridge, 35, of Manhattan. Each was snared in an NYPD undercover gun probe and hit with a variety of gun sale and possession charges, as well as conspiracy, police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
The investigation got under way when the NYPD learned in December 2011 that the suspects were selling illegal guns in East Harlem, Kelly said.
"The two suspects sold our undercover detectives a total of 49 guns, and most of them loaded," Kelly said.
The weapons ranged from a derringer to an AK-47 sold for $1,500, Kelly said. The AK-47 had been reported stolen in Georgia four days before the undercover purchase, he said.
Investigators were actively tracing the history of each of the weapons seized in the case, which is being prosecuted by the Manhattan district attorney's office.
Winston was deemed the brains of the operation, working out of his base in Macon, Kelly said at a news conference with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. Winston decided to send more than a dozen of the firearms through the Express Mail service, a method that Kelly said was unusual but which allowed investigators to alert U.S. Postal Service inspectors to track the packages and later intercept the weapons. None of the guns sent through the mail was loaded, Kelly said.
Investigators said the mailed guns were wrapped in disposable aluminum cooking trays, which were then surrounded by socks, presumably to foil any detection devices, Kelly said.
Winston had no significant criminal record and was arrested earlier in the week in Georgia, where he waived extradition, said Vance, adding that Dandridge was arraigned earlier in the week in Manhattan Criminal Court and his bail was set at $200,000 cash or $500,000 bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 19.
Vance said the case represented the 16th gun indictment prosecuted by his office, resulting in 555 illegal guns being taken off the streets.
"I look at those guns and quite honestly and I think of someone who has not been shot and killed," Vance said with the seized weapons arrayed on a table nearby.