NEW YORK (AP) — A gunrunner who smuggled more than 100 weapons from Atlanta and Pittsburgh into New York City on cheap interstate passenger buses bragged about it in a cellphone call to his ex-girlfriend while carrying a cache in a duffel bag on the streets of Manhattan, prosecutors said Wednesday.
"I've got MAC-10s on me, an SK assault rifle and four guns/">handguns and I'm walking through New York," Michael Bassier said in the intercepted phone call in March, according to authorities.
The conversation — evidence in a yearlong undercover probe of a gun-trafficking ring — demonstrates the persistent threat of guns that are bought in states with lax gun-control laws, resold to criminals in New York and used in shootings, authorities said a news conference announcing the arrests.
Bassier, 31, was among eight reputed members of the gun ring facing conspiracy and other charges. He was being held without bail following an arraignment on Tuesday; there was no immediate response to a message left on Wednesday with his attorney.
The takedown follows a series of similar investigations over the past several years, including recent ones targeting guns smuggled from the South in private cars and commercial airliners. While New York City has some of the strictest gun-control laws, the cases show the need for federal legislation to help address the problem, said Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson.
"So we had guns in a car, guns on a plane and now guns on a bus," Thompson said. "How many different ways to we have to try to get to these guns before we wake up as a country and realize that we have to stop the bloodshed?"
An undercover New York Police Department officer using the alias "Zoey" infiltrated the ring last year and persuaded Bassier to make him his exclusive customer, authorities said. During the course of the investigation, the suspect made 12 trips by Chinatown-based buses to Atlanta and six trips by car to Pittsburgh to purchase semi-automatic pistols and assault weapons, they said.
Bassier recruited straw purchasers to pay between $150 to $300 per gun at gun stores and pawn shops and on websites in their home states, then resold them for $800 to $1,200, authorities said. In all, he provided 112 weapons to the undercover in transactions that often took places in a Walgreens parking lot in Brooklyn, authorities said.
The wiretap evidence shows Bassier knew exactly what he was doing, prosecutors said.
"I'm selling them the right way and the wrong way," he told his ex. "When I'm out of state, like Atlanta and Georgia and all that, it's all legal ... but in New York, it's completely illegal."
The woman expressed dismay, telling Bassier, "I thought you said you've changed."
His response: "I have."