FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Eight Defendants Indicted For Trafficking Weapons Across State Lines;
Guns Purchased in Georgia and Pennsylvania, Then Bused to New York
For Resale on the Streets of Brooklyn
112 Guns, Including 20 Assault Weapons, Purchased During Course of Investigation
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, together with New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, today announced that eight men and women from three states have been charged in a 541-count indictment with conspiracy and other charges for trafficking guns purchased in Atlanta, Georgia, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and resold on the streets of Brooklyn.
District Attorney Thompson said, “These defendants conspired to use the lax gun laws down south and elsewhere to flood the streets of our city with assault weapons and other guns, which, in the wrong hands, could have caused mayhem and massive bloodshed in our communities. We will now hold these merchants of death accountable no matter where they live.”
Commissioner Bratton said, “I commend the members of NYPD’s Firearms Investigations Unit, whose dedication to this dangerous long-term investigation not only prevented more than 100 firearms from reaching the streets of Brooklyn, but undoubtedly saved lives in the process. The NYPD will continue to work with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and our many law enforcement partners to bring to justice any individuals or criminal organizations that seek to profit from the illegal sale of firearms.”
The District Attorney said that the alleged mastermind of the trafficking ring, Michael Bassier, boasted on wiretaps that he was essentially taking advantage of lax gun laws outside of New York to bring firearms into the City.
“I’m selling them the right way and the wrong way. When I’m out of state, like in Atlanta and Georgia and all that, it’s all legal, but New York, it’s completely illegal. So when I bring (expletive) up here and sell it up here, that’s illegal,” Bassier allegedly said in a phone conversation that was intercepted via electronic surveillance.
The District Attorney identified the defendants as Michael Bassier, 31, of 1487 East 96th Street, in Canarsie, Brooklyn; Willie Ware, 26, of 1607 East 96th Street, in Canarsie, Brooklyn; Anthony Jackson, 25, of 454 Kingsborough 4th Walk, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn; Jonathan Destin, 26, of 2517 Snyder Avenue, in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn; Lance Millien, 27, of 1624 Graves Road, Norcross, Georgia; Tanisha Minor, 26, of 416 Whitney Chase, Stone Mountain, Georgia; Nicole Taylor, 24, of 229 Cambridge Square, Monroeville, Pennsylvania; Terrah Moore, 22, of 5710 Rippey Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The defendants have been variously charged in a 541-count indictment with fourth-degree conspiracy; first-, second- and third-degree criminal sale of a firearm; first-degree criminal possession of a weapon and other related charges. The defendants were arrested and arraigned over the last week before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Martin Murphy. Minor’s bail was set at $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash; Jackson’s bail was set at $250,000 bond or $100,000 cash; and both Destin and Bassier were remanded. The other defendants were arrested in Georgia and Pennsylvania and are pending extradition. If convicted, Bassier faces up to 25 years in prison on the top count. Ware is not in custody yet, but is being actively pursued by the NYPD.
The District Attorney said the indictment is the result of a long-term investigation conducted by the New York City Police Department’s Firearms Investigations Unit and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. Between September 2014 and September 2015 the defendants allegedly conspired to sell guns purchased in Georgia and Pennsylvania to an NYPD undercover detective in Brooklyn. The investigation included the use of intercepted electronic communications as well as physical and video surveillance. The weapons recovered during the course of the investigation include 9mm Ruger and Glock pistols, .22 caliber Walther pistols, .40 caliber Smith & Wesson pistols, .45 caliber Taurus pistols, and a variety of assault weapons including multiple .22 long rifle caliber semi-automatic Walther Model MP Uzis, .39 mm caliber semi-automatic Norinco Model SKS, 9mm Luger semi-automatic Jimenez Arms Model JA25 and others.
During the course of the investigation, it is alleged, Michael Bassier made 12 trips to Atlanta, Georgia, using Chinatown buses for transportation, including the Bus2NYC and other Chinatown bus lines. He allegedly brought up to six guns to New York from Atlanta on each trip, which were later brought to Brooklyn and sold to the undercover.
It is further alleged that Bassier made at least six trips by automobile to Pittsburgh to purchase guns which were later brought to Brooklyn and sold to the undercover.
According to the investigation, Bassier allegedly enlisted several individuals, referred to as “straw purchasers,” in the Atlanta, Georgia area to purchase firearms on his behalf from gun stores, pawn shops and street dealers. Specifically, it is alleged that Jonathan Destin of Brooklyn introduced Bassier to the Atlanta, Georgia area. Destin, Lance Millien and Tanisha Minor, both of Georgia, acted as Bassier’s primary accomplices there. Minor, Millien and Destin are alleged to have purchased firearms and to have recruited other women to purchase firearms for Bassier.
It is further alleged, that, in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area Bassier relied on Nicole Taylor and Terrah Moore, both of Pennsylvania, to purchase firearms from gun stores, pawn shops, websites and street dealers, as well as to recruit other buyers.
Furthermore, according to the investigation, once he returned to Brooklyn with the guns, Bassier arranged to sell them to the undercover. Almost all of the sales took place at a Walgreens parking lot located at Rockaway Parkway and Avenue M in Canarsie, Brooklyn. Bassier allegedly paid between $150 and $300 per gun, and paid the straw purchasers a fee of $50 per gun. The undercover paid on average between $800 and $1,200 per gun, although the assault weapons purchased by the undercover cost approximately $2,000 to $2,500. The undercover spent a total of $130,050 on the firearms purchased during the course of the investigation.
Finally, it is alleged, Bassier was aided in Brooklyn by Willie Ware, who personally sold firearms to the undercover on two occasions and by Anthony Jackson, who worked as a lookout for Bassier during firearms transactions.
The District Attorney said that prosecutors assigned to his newly created Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau, working with detectives from the New York City Police Department’s Firearms Investigations Unit, have taken 553 guns off Brooklyn streets since he took office.
The investigation was conducted by New York City Police Department Detective Charles Lennon and Detective Scott Martin of the NYPD’s Firearm’s Investigations Unit, under the supervision of Sergeant Donald Morgan, Lieutenant Michael Jennings, Captain Robert Van Houten, and Deputy Inspector Brian Gill and the overall supervision of Chief Thomas Purtell of the Organized Crime Control Bureau.
The District Attorney thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for their assistance in this matter.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Ashlyn Forde and Kathleen Murphy, of the District Attorney’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Tara Lenich, Deputy Chief for Special Investigations and Assistant District Attorney Nicole Chavis, VCE Bureau Chief and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of Investigations.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.