NEW YORK, NEW YORK – A former New York City Police officer was sentenced to 57 months in prison for his role in a scheme to transport guns and stolen cigarettes across a state line as part of a $1 million conspiracy.
William Masso, 48, of Brooklyn pleaded guilty in February to four counts of conspiracy, charged in October with scheming to transport M-16 rifles and handguns with defaced serial numbers across state lines. He was one of 12 people charged, all but one of the men have pleaded guilty in the case and awaits trial, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Prosecutors said Masso was the ringleader of the scheme and had even recruited other police officers to join him. Eventually the group would include eight active-duty and retired New York police officers.
“He’s the leader of the team, a team he put together, including an officer he’d been entrusted to train,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Cohen said in court today.
Agents with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation set up an undercover operation and working with a confidential informant, supplied Masso and other officers with purportedly stolen property, Bharara’s office said. Masso recruited others to the scheme telling one agent he told the confidential informant he could get him a “good army set up here” and advised him how to avoid detection by authorities. He transported weapons that included three M-16 rifles and at least 16 handguns with their serial numbers defaced.
Masso also volunteered to transport the weapons across state lines and placed his NYPD jacket in the window to avoid being stopped, Cohen said.
“In this case, the offenses are indisputably serious without any hint of justification and without any hint of excuse,” U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koetl in Manhattan said today. “The defendant was ready, willing able to participate in the conspiracy,” he said.
Koetl said that U.S. Probation officials had recommended a term of 57 months to 71 months in prison for Masso, citing his position as a police officer, the fact that he’d recruited others, abused his authority and was a leader of the scheme.
The judge said he credited Masso’s 19 years of service as a police officer with an unblemished record. Masso must surrender to U.S. Prison officials by Oct. 10 and Koetl said he would recommend that he be designated to serve his term at the federal prison in Fort Dix, New Jersey.
His lawyer, Ronald Fischetti, asked the judge for leniency, citing the more than 50 letters which friends, relatives and supporters had written to the court, describing Masso’s good deeds. Calling Masso’s crimes “mind-boggling” Fischetti said that because his client had lost his job and wouldn’t get his police pension, his wife and three children were now impoverished.
“The question is how much is enough for a broken man, a disgraced cop who has no pension. He’s learned his lesson, he’s destitute,” Fischetti said.
Masso wept openly during the sentencing and clutched a rosary as he spoke to the court.
“I don’t know how to express how sorry I am,” Masso said. “My actions disgraced my family, my friends and especially the New York Police Department, who I consider my family. It cost me my job and now it’s taken my whole life.”
The FBI supplied Masso and his co-conspirators with purportedly stolen goods including three M-16 rifles, a shotgun, 16 handguns, 12 slot machines and thousands of cartons of cigarettes, prosecutors said. The goods had a street value of about $1 million, prosecutors said.
Masso has agreed to forfeit $50,000, representing the amount of the proceeds of his crimes and his interest in three guns that were seized, prosecutors said. He was terminated by the NYPD after his guilty plea without pension or benefits.
The case is U.S. v. Masso, 11-02730, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).