Calling them merchants of death, the Brooklyn district attorney says he's busted a gun-running ring that involves three states and more than $100,000 in illegal weapons. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Big guns, little guns and pink ones, all headed to criminals. Now, eight men and women from Brooklyn, Atlanta and Pittsburgh have been busted on charges of taking part in a ring that brought scores of illegal guns into the city.
"This is an AR-15. This can shoot through a bulletproof vest or an apartment door," said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.
The Brooklyn DA says Michael Bassier, aka Dread, took Chinatown buses to Atlanta and drove to Pittsburgh to illegally buy guns from people who lawfully purchased them from pawn shops, gun stores and websites, a maneuver called a straw purchase. He then brought the guns back to the city.
According to a recorded conversation, Bassier allegedly said, "Listen, I’m walking through Manhattan, right? I’ve got two Mac 10s, a SK assault riddle and four handguns, and I’m walking through New York. This is illegal as (expletive)!”
Bassier was under surveillance and wiretapped. He unknowingly sold 112 guns to an undercover police officer during the year-long investigation. He allegedly told a friend about the scheme.
According to another recorded conversation, Bassier allegedly said, "When I’m out of state, like in Atlanta and Georgia and all that, it’s all legal, it’s fully legal. But in New York, it’s completely illegal."
The Brooklyn DA says that's how he was able to arrest people involved in Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Thompson says more has to be done on the national level to prevent gun violence. He says he is very concerned that right now, someone could be driving up I-95 with a car full of guns similar to these.
"But there's no real federal statute that deals with this gun trafficking like what these folks were doing, buying these guns down in Georgia or in Pittsburgh legally knowing that they were bringing them to New York to sell illegally," Thompson said.
The NYPD agrees.
"The handgun used to assassinate detectives Joe Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn last December was bought at a Georgia pawn shop and made its way here illegally," said NYPD Chief of Department James O'Neill.
Police say 90 percent of the guns used in crimes in the city come from down south.