ONE POLICE PLAZA — A pair of gun trafficking rings used Chinatown buses to smuggle hundreds of high-capacity assault rifles, fully automatic machine guns and handguns into New York City from as far away as South Carolina, before being brought down in the largest haul in city history, the mayor's office announced Monday.
A joint sting between the NYPD and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor netted 19 members of two rings that used the low-cost buses to smuggle weapons into the city between September 2012 to July 2013, officials said.
“There is no doubt that the seizure of these guns — the largest bust in the city’s history — has saved lives," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference at NYPD headquarters Monday morning. "For that reason, every New Yorker in every part of our city, owes a debt of thanks to all those involved in this investigation.”
Ringleaders Walter Walker, 28, who police said ran guns out of Sanford, N.C. and Earl Campbell, 23, who cops said operated out of Rock Hill, S.C., allegedly stashed an arsenal of deadly weapons, including a Cobray 9mm machine gun with a 30-round magazine, .22 caliber pistols and three Intertec 9 assault pistols, in their luggage as they rode into the city on Chinatown buses, Special Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said.
Once in New York, the men used Brooklyn-based broker Omole Adedji, 29, to help unload the weapons, officials said.
A single NYPD officer with the Firearms Investigative Unit infiltrated both unrelated gun crews, officials said. The undercover cop kept close tabs on both men, purchasing all the guns they unloaded within hours after they pulled into town, prosecutors said.
On his first trip to New York, Campbell brought his girlfriend Kendall Danielle Jones, 23, who carried an unassembled Norinco SKS assault weapon in a zebra-patterned bag with the intention of unloading it to a buyer, according to the prosecutor's office.
When Jones and Campbell found putting the gun together more difficult than they anticipated, the two tried looking up assembly instructions on her smart phone, but when that didn't help, the undercover cop agreed to buy the rifle in pieces for $1,100, Brennan said.
About 11 of Walker's gun sales were hosted in the home studio of aspiring rapper Matthew "Neno" Best, 26, in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn, according to officials. Walker allegedly netted roughly $82,000 from the sale of 116 guns in what investigators dubbed "Operation Up on the Hill."
Campbell earned $75,000 selling 90 guns to the undercover between October 2012 and July 2013, prosecutors said.
Bloomberg touted the bust as a major reason why the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactic should remain in place, following a federal judge's ruling that found the procedure unconstitutional.
One of the suspects busted in the ring warned his cohorts that they should not operate in parts of Brooklyn because of the police tactic.
"Yeah I'm in Charlotte now. I, I can't leave until you come cause I can't take them...to my house, to my side of town cause I'm, umm, I'm in Brownsville. So we got like, we got like umm, uh, whatchamacallit, stop and frisk," Campbell was caught saying on a wiretap, according to the Special Narcotics Prosecutor.
"Common sense says, when you run a risk of getting stopped you're going to pay more attention to what's in your pocket," the mayor said.
City Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu, an opponent of stop-and-frisk, said the bust didn't justify heavy-handed police tactics.
“We applaud the City’s record gun bust, but we are nonetheless outraged that the Mayor is using it as a scare tactic to justify the unconstitutional stop-and-frisk police tactic," he said. "Stopping and frisking innocent New Yorkers never has been, never is, and never will be the answer.”