Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced that William Masso, a former New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer, was sentenced today to 57 months in prison for leading a group of active and retired NYPD officers and others in a scheme involving the illegal interstate transportation of firearms and stolen goods. Masso, who was an NYPD officer on active duty at the time he committed the offenses, pled guilty in February 2012 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 goods interstate. He was sentenced in Manhattan federal court by U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “William Masso chose to abuse the power conferred on him by the badge he wore and to encourage others to do the same. His sentencing today brings this sorry tale of corruption that disserved the NYPD and the people of New York City one step closer to conclusion.”
According to the complaint, the plea agreement, the four-count information to which Masso pled guilty, sentencing submissions, 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 he said were stolen 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 him and his boss, who was really 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 ensure safe transport of the goods. Thereafter, Masso recruited fellow NYPD officers and other members of law enforcement to join the conspiracy. He told the CI that he had set up “a good army” ready to help transport the stolen goods.
From September 2010 to October 2011, the FBI supplied Masso and his team of 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 numbers, and all of which had been rendered inoperable—12 slot machines, thousands of cartons of cigarettes, and other counterfeit merchandise across state lines into New York. 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 in March 2011, Masso explained that the men should carry their law enforcement badges during the operation and, if stopped, say they were police officers working off-duty to deliver items that had been purchased at an auction. Masso and his team also used their specialized knowledge as law enforcement officers in determining the ideal vehicle to rent to transport the goods; they wanted one that was least likely to get pulled over for inspection.
In addition, in July 2011, Masso conspired to sell a shotgun to UC-1 for $2,000. He was 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 assistance of some of his other co-conspirators, transported firearms—all of which had been rendered inoperable by the FBI—from New Jersey to Long Island. After inspecting the guns and viewing the defaced serial numbers, Masso drove the guns in his car with his NYPD jacket displayed in the car window during the trip.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Koeltl sentenced Masso, 48, of Brooklyn, New York, to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay a $400 special assessment fee. Masso has also agreed to a money judgment of $50,000, representing the amount of the crime proceeds, and has relinquished his interest in guns seized from him at the time of his arrest.
Masso was originally charged in a four-count complaint along with 11 co-conspirators: Eddie Goris and John Mahoney, who were also active-duty NYPD officers in the 68th precinct at the time they engaged in the conspiracy; 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; Marco Venezia, who was a retired NYPD officer who had worked in community affairs during part of the time he engaged in the conspiracy; and Joseph Trischitta and Richard Melnik, both of whom were retired NYPD officers who had worked in Brooklyn’s 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. Kanwisher pled guilty in February 2012 and was sentenced in June 2012 to 27 months in prison. All of the remaining co-conspirators, except for Oklu, have pled guilty and await sentencing. The charges against Oklu are merely accusations, and he is 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 United States Attorney Carrie H. Cohen is in charge of the prosecution.