Former New Jersey Corrections Officer Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 27 Months in Prison for Conspiring to Distribute Firearms and Stolen Goods

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that David Kanwisher was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 27 months in prison for his role in a scheme to illegally transport firearms and stolen goods across state lines. Kanwisher pled guilty on February 15, 2012 to one count of conspiracy to transport firearms interstate and one count of conspiracy to transport and receive stolen merchandise before United States District Judge Katherine B. Forrest, who also imposed today’s sentence.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “In addition to breaking the law, David Kanwisher and his co-defendants did a tremendous disservice to their fellow officers, their departments, and the people they served. The message of this case and of his sentence today is that those who abuse their positions of trust and engage in corruption will be punished.”

According to the complaint, the plea agreement, the two-count information to which Kanwisher pled guilty, sentencing submissions, and statements made in court:

From September 2010 to October 2011, Kanwisher, who was a New Jersey State Corrections Officer at the time the offenses were committed, transported firearms and what he believed were stolen goods, including slot machines, cigarettes and other merchandise, across state lines. As part of the scheme, Kanwisher helped transport three M-16 rifles, one shotgun, and 16 handguns—the majority of which had been defaced to remove or alter the serial number—six slot machines, thousands of cartons of cigarettes, and assorted counterfeit merchandise. In total, the goods that Kanwisher and his co-conspirators illegally transported carried a street value of approximately $1 million.

In preparing for, and carrying out this scheme, Kanwisher and his co-conspirators specifically discussed using their credentials and knowledge as law enforcement officers to commit the offenses. For example, in a meeting on March 24, 2011, Kanwisher was told by the leader of the conspiracy, William Masso, that the men should carry their law enforcement badges during the operation and, if stopped, should say they were police officers working off- duty to deliver items another person had purchased at an auction. At that same meeting, Kanwisher discussed a potential problem regarding using Ryder trucks to transport the merchandise because law enforcement is trained to look for those types of trucks in connection with potential criminal activity. Kanwisher later discussed with Masso how he should assist any team member who was pulled over by law enforcement.

Kanwisher was originally charged in a four-count complaint in October 2011 along with the following co-conspirators: Masso, who was an active-duty NYPD officer in the 68th precinct when he committed the offenses; Eddie Goris and John Mahoney, who also were active-duty NYPD officers in the 68th precinct; Ali Oklu, who was an active-duty NYPD officer working as a member of the Brooklyn South Task Force; Gary Ortiz, who was an active-duty NYPD officer working in Brooklyn’s 71st precinct; Richard Melnik, who was a retired NYPD officer during the time he committed the offenses and worked in community affairs in Brooklyn’s 68th precinct; and Joseph Trischitta and Richard Melnik, both of whom are active-duty NYPD fficers from Brooklyn’s 68th precinct during part of the time they committed the offenses. Also charged in the complaint were former New York City Department of Sanitation Police Officer Anthony Santiago and associates Michael Gee and Eric Gomer. All of these defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing, with the exception of Oklu, whose trial is currently scheduled for February 4, 2013. The charges against Oklu are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

In addition to his prison term, Kanwisher, 39, of Tuckerton, New Jersey, was sentenced to three years of supervised release and a $200 mandatory special assessment. Kanwisher also has agreed to a money judgment of $18,000, representing the amount of the crime proceeds and his interest in the guns seized from him at the time of his arrest.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI and the Internal Affairs Bureau of the NYPD.

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption and Complex Frauds Units. Assistant United States Attorney Carrie H. Cohen is in charge of the prosecution.