Police Bust Two East Harlem Gun Trafficking Rings
EAST HARLEM — Police arrested 13 people on Thursday and were looking for three others involved in two separate gun trafficking networks operating out of East Harlem.
The two groups — one run by an alleged 64-year-old career criminal and the other by young men living in and around the Carver Houses — allegedly sold 129 guns, including an AK-47 assault rifle, Mac 10, and TEC-9, to an undercover officer over the course of 17 months.
"There's an awful lot of firepower here, and you can kill an awful lot of people with these weapons," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday at One Police Plaza as he stood behind a table covered with 100 of the guns recovered in the bust.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said one of the investigations, which started in May 2011 and was dubbed "Mickey Mouse Trap," focused on nabbing Mitchell "Mickey" Collins, who was first arrested for possession of a loaded firearm in 1968 and has since been imprisoned for attempted murder, weapons possession and selling drugs.
"[Collins] and three other suspects in this case sold a total of 88 firearms to [the undercover officer]," Kelly said. "While the tracing of these guns is underway we believe that the subjects purchased them mostly from pawn shops and other gun dealers in South Carolina."
Police are still tracing the origins of many of the guns, but they believe straw buyers were used to purchase at least some of the weapons and that the guns were then falsely reported stolen before being sold on the streets.
Kelly said one of Collins' younger associates, 34-year-old Samson Taylor, has six prior arrests, including one for robbery. "Taylor would take a bus to South Carolina and buy guns Collins' behest," Kelly said.
The second investigation, called "Operation Carver," started last November, with undercover officers buying 41 guns and a bulletproof vest from sellers in and around public housing located across from Mount Sinai Hospital.
Two of the guns were used in previous shootings, police said, one in The Bronx in 2003 and another in Brooklyn last year in a gunfight in the Cypress Houses.
The Carver crews were named "East River Army," "Six-Net, Who-a-Day" and "Total Money Gang," according to the NYPD, and sold the weapons for about twice their legal price.
"The crew members, ranging in age from 17 to 23, had prior arrests for a range of offenses, including attempted murder, weapons possession, assault, drugs, larceny and trespassing," Kelly said.
Authorities said the main seller was 21-year-old Dario "D" Wynerman, who allegedly sold 34 weapons to the undercover officer and introduced the detective to 13 other gun sellers.
Five of the guns sold were assault weapons or machine guns, according the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
Police first learned about the guns be sold illegally on the streets of Harlem and then had an undercover officer from the Firearms Investigation Unit start buying weapons from the networks.
It took a long time to gain the confidence of Collins, who made the officer wait three months before agreeing to meet in person. He then would only sell one gun at a time, apparently waiting to see of police were tracking the initial gun sale.
"I also want to commend someone we can only identify as 'Detective X' for the dangerous, undercover work that made this case possible," Kelly said.
The defendants were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court Friday while police searched for the final three suspects.