The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office announced the details of a big indictment Wednesday, alleging 541 charges against a ring of gun traffickers accused of transporting weapons into New York after buying them legally in the South. According to the announcement, the 121 guns recovered during the yearlong investigation included a variety of pistols and assault weapons.
“These defendants conspired to use the lax gun laws down south and elsewhere to flood the streets of our city with assault weapons and other guns, which, in the wrong hands, could have caused mayhem and massive bloodshed in our communities,” Brooklyn D.A. Ken Thompson was quoted as saying in an announcement. “We will now hold these merchants of death accountable no matter where they live.”
In a press conference, Thompson said that about 90 percent of the guns recovered in crimes in Brooklyn were traced back to the South.
The indictment targets eight individuals, singling out 31-year-old Canarsie resident Michael Bassier as the mastermind. Bassier was heard on wiretaps allegedly explaining his strategy in almost comically clear terms: “When I’m out of state, like in Atlanta and Georgia and all that, it’s all legal, but New York, it’s completely illegal. So when I bring [expletive] up here and sell it up here, that’s illegal.”
For those who are curious about how gun trafficking works—and who among us isn’t!—the indictment offers a few revealing details:
- Bassier allegedly enlisted a handful of “straw purchasers” in the Atlanta, Georgia area, including both men and women, to buy weapons at gun stores, pawn stores, street dealers, and web-based vendors.
- The straw purchasers allegedly bought the guns for $150 to $300 dollars, and were paid just $50 per gun for their troubles.
- Bassier allegedly transported the guns to New York via Chinatown bus.
- Bassier then allegedly carried the guns on foot to a customer he did not know was an undercover law enforcement agent, telling him in a phone conversation that was played at a news conference Wednesday, “Listen, I’m walking through Manhattan, right? I’ve got two Mac 10s on me, an SK assault rifle and four handguns and I’m walking through New York.”
- Bassier then allegedly flipped the guns in a Walgreens parking lot for between $800 and $1,200 per gun. Assault weapons were pricier, fetching approximately $2,000 to $2,500 per unit.
And now you know how gun trafficking works.