A sting operation resulted in the arrest Tuesday of five New York Police Department officers on charges that they smuggled firearms, cigarettes and slot machines they thought were stolen, federal authorities said.
The officers were among 12 people charged in a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Manhattan. Three retired NYPD officers and a New Jersey corrections officer are among the other defendants.
The men were to appear in court later Tuesday to face conspiracy and firearms charges. The names of their attorneys were not immediately available.
The arrests stem from an FBI-NYPD internal affairs investigation that began in 2009 when a confidential informant tipped off authorities that an NYPD officer was interested in making money by transporting stolen goods. In the months that followed, the informant and an undercover officer began supplying the defendants and others cigarettes purportedly stolen out of state for resale, the criminal complaint says.
Later in the alleged conspiracy, the defendants agreed to transport 20 weapons from New Jersey to New York using rented mini-vans, the complaint says. The cache was composed of three automatic rifles, a shotgun and 16 handguns, "the majority of which had obliterated or altered serial numbers," it says.
Prosecutors say the officers were unaware that the weapons also had "been rendered inoperable by the FBI," the complaint says. The undercover gave four of the police officers about $5,000 each to help transport the guns, it says.
The arrests come amid speculation that the Bronx district attorney's office is close to bringing charges in a separate police misconduct case. A dozen or more officers, including union representatives, are facing allegations they abused their authority by helping friends and family avoid paying traffic tickets.
The gun-smuggling complaint describes the confidential informant being introduced to one of the accused officers "as a person who could `fix' the CI's traffic tickets." The officer, it adds, "discussed his willingness to `fix' tickets."
It was unclear whether the ticket-fixing reference has any connection to the Bronx investigation. The officers named in the federal complaint are assigned to commands in Brooklyn.