NEW YORK (Reuters) - Eight New York City policemen were charged on Tuesday with helping run a gun-smuggling ring in a city whose mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is leading a national campaign against illegal guns.
The men were accused of exploiting their experience and credentials to take part in schemes to illegally transport guns, slot machines, cigarettes and counterfeit goods across state lines, a criminal complaint released by the U.S. District Attorney’s Office said.
Five of the men charged were active-duty officers, two were on active duty for part of the time they were accused of involvement in the schemes, and one was retired. All worked in Brooklyn, most in the same precinct.
The goods smuggled had a street value of more than $1 million, prosecutors said, and the scheme was carried out over the past year.
Bloomberg, who helped found the national coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said that if the charges against the policemen proved true, “it would be a disgraceful and deplorable betrayal of the public trust.”
“We will continue doing everything possible to take illegal guns off the street, and to bring justice to anyone who seeks to sell or carry guns illegally,” he said in a statement.
FBI New York Assistant Director in Charge Janice Fedarcyk said in a statement that the crimes risked undermining public confidence in law enforcement.
“The public trusts the police not only to enforce the law, but to obey it,” she said.
Also charged on Tuesday was a former officer with the New York City Department of Sanitation Police, a New Jersey corrections officer, and two other men.
The complaint accused the defendants of transporting 20 firearms including three M-16 rifles, a shotgun and 16 handguns across state lines from New Jersey to New York. The majority of the weapons had obliterated or altered serial numbers.
The guns were provided to the men in a sting operation in New Jersey by an undercover law enforcement agent and had been rendered inoperable by the FBI. The guns were delivered to another undercover agent in New York.
“The fact that the goods really weren’t stolen and the guns didn’t work doesn’t lessen culpability, especially for those who had sworn an oath to uphold the law,” New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a statement.
Kelly, who has been touted as a possible New York City mayoral candidate in 2013, has said some 90 percent of illegal guns confiscated by New York City police come from other states.
More than 500 mayors from more than 40 states are now members of Bloomberg’s coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The group says that 30,000 Americans are killed every year by gun violence.
Reporting by Chris Francescani and Aman Ali; Writing by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Jerry Norton and Cynthia Johnston