A pair of gunrunners smuggled firearms into New York City by hiding them in luggage they carried on discount buses that offered cheap fares and lesser odds of getting caught, authorities said on Monday.
An undercover city police officer posing as a gun broker for criminal customers bought 254 weapons from the men in dozens of transactions since last year, the largest gun seizures in the city’s history, according to its mayor.
“Today we are announcing the largest gun bust in the city’s history, the result of an undercover investigation into two out-of-state gun trafficking operations,” Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference on Monday.
One of the guns was an assault rifle that was disassembled and transported in a girlfriend’s zebra-striped bag, authorities said.
The alleged smugglers, Walter Walker and Earl Campbell, were among 19 people arrested in New York and in North Carolina and South Carolina, states where the guns originated, as the result of a 10-month investigation.
Also charged was an aspiring rapper from Brooklyn.
Walker and Campbell were arrested earlier this month by local police in their home states, authorities said. The names of their defence attorneys were not immediately available.
New York Police Department officials and prosecutors announced details of the case on Monday, citing it as another example of a persistent black market in which firearms from the South can sell for three times their original price in the city.
New York has some of the nation’s strictest gun-control measures and a mayor who has crusaded for tougher laws in other states.
Mayor Bloomberg also claimed that wiretap evidence from the investigation shows that the New York Police Department’s “Stop, question and frisk” policy works, despite a federal judge’s ruling that the policy goes against the US constitution.
“Wiretap conversations from this investigation show that one of the gun traffickers’ biggest concerns was Stop-Question-Frisk. And guns continue to flow onto our streets from other states. We have to take every constitutionally protected step at our disposal to keep them out,” he said.
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