The faint scent of metal filled the air as Police Commissioner Ray Kelly showed off 100 illegal guns seized by the NYPD in an undercover operation that busted members of two weapons trafficking rings.
Joined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Kelly announced Friday 16 members of two trafficking networks were indicted on gun-related charges. Police arrested 13 of those suspects in the last day in East Harlem, while the others are still at large, Kelly said.
The defendants are accused of selling illegal weapons, likely brought into New York from pawn shops in South Carolina, and selling 129 of them to undercover cops. Those guns ranged from an AK-47 assault rifle sold for $1,600 to a 32-caliber revolver sold for $400.
Kelly gave a special thanks to an officer he referred to only as "Detective X' for his "dangerous, undercover" work in the investigation. Bloomberg commended the NYPD for helping to make New York City the safest big city in the nation.
"This investigation illustrates both the problem of illegal guns being purchased in other states and brought here illegally, and the skill and dedication of the NYPD officers who take the guns off the street, often at great risk to themselves," Bloomberg said.
The bust is the result of two investigations. In an operation called "Mickey Mouse Trap," undercover cops spent months trying to purchase illegal weapons from 64-year-old career criminal Mitchell "Mickey" Collins. Along with three other suspects, Collins sold undercover officers 88 guns, according to Kelly.
"Getting close to the wily Mickey Collins was no easy matter," Kelly said. "It's unusual to see individuals as old as Mickey Collins still engaged in criminal activity. Regrettably, it's not unusual for young men to get involved in violent street crews."
The other investigation, "Operation Carver," targeted street crews who live in or near East Harlem's Carver Houses. The suspects, all between 17 and 23 years old, belong to crews known as the East Rivery Army, Six-Net, Who-a-Day and the Total Money Gang. Kelly said undercover cops purchased 41 guns and a bulletproof vest from crew members. He issued a warning to other young men who are caught up in illegal gun sales.
"It's difficult, demanding, dangerous work, but it has to be done," Kelly said of the investigations. "So, our message is clear - don't get involved. We are coming after you."
Kelly added that two NYPD officers dodged gunshots from a suspect they were chasing in Brooklyn Thursday night. They returned fire on the man, shooting him several times. He is in critical condition, according to Kelly, who added that the suspect's firearm was illegally purchased in 2006 in North Carolina.