NEW YORK (Reuters)—Eight New York City policemen were charged on Tuesday with helping run a gun-smuggling ring in a city where the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is leading a national campaign against illegal guns.
The men "exploited their experience and credentials to assist in a variety of schemes involving the illegal interstate transportation of goods," which included guns, slot machines, cigarettes and counterfeit goods, according to the criminal complaint released by the U.S. District Attorney's Office.
Five are still active-duty officers, two were active-duty officers for part of the time they are accused of involvement in the smuggling schemes, and one was retired. All worked in the city borough of Brooklyn, most of them in the same precinct.
Bloomberg, who is co-chairman of the national coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, was not immediately available for comment. He helped found the group in 2006 in a bid to make cities safer by cracking down on illegal guns.
"The defendants participated in schemes involving the illegal interstate transportation of goods carrying a street value in excess of one million dollars," according to the complaint. The schemes were carried out in the past year.
Also charged was a former officer with the New York City Department of Sanitation Police, a New Jersey corrections officer, and two other men.
"The defendants transported 20 firearms, including three M-16 rifles, one shotgun and 16 handguns, the majority of which had obliterated or altered serial numbers, across state lines from New Jersey to New York," according to the complaint.
The New York City police department and one of its employee unions declined to comment on the charges.
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.
New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has said some 90 percent of illegal guns confiscated by New York City police come from other states.
In 2006 New York brought two civil cases against 27 gun dealers in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia on the grounds their sales practices allowed criminals to buy guns and bring them into the city.
Twenty-one of those dealers settled with the city, three defaulted and will have settlement terms imposed on them by the court, and three were dismissed by agreement.
(Reporting by Aman Ali; Writing by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)