Three men have been accused by US prosecutors of smuggling as many as 50 guns into New York City by bus and storing them inside a gym where one of them was employed.
Maquan Moore, 29, who worked as security guard at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and Morris Wilson, 32, were both detained last night after attempting to sell firearms to undercover NYPD officers and agents from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
A third suspect, who was a worker at the gym where the weapons were stored for short periods of time, remains at large, police said.
Wilson, who is said to have brought the guns into the city by bus from Florida, is charged with conspiracy to traffic firearms, firearms trafficking, and interstate transportation and receipt of firearms, each of which carry a maximum penalty of five years behind bars.
Moore, who is alleged to have taken the guns to the Equinox gym on Greenwich Avenue, where the third suspect hid them, is charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms, firearms trafficking, interstate transportation and receipt of firearms, and possession of a firearm near a school zone, each of which carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
He is also charged with receiving a firearm with intent to commit an offence, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.
Among the guns the men allegedly attempted to sell to undercover agents were several 9-millimetre handguns, a Kahr .380 pistol and an AM-15 semiautomatic rifle.
Moore is said to have told investigators he had access to a range of firearms from an out-of-state source, and showed officers a photo of the weapons he had for sale on his phone.
Commenting on the arrests, Geoffrey Berman, Interim US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said: “As alleged, Maquan Moore and Morris Wilson are responsible for illegally introducing into Manhattan scores of illegal firearms – including assault-style weapons capable of inflicting mass casualties – and knowingly doing so in the neighbourhood of a nearby school.
“Their alleged disregard for public safety could have had catastrophic consequences. The danger of selling unlicensed firearms cannot be overstated. I commend our NYPD and ATF partners for keeping these guns out of the hands of unlicensed owners.”
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the men’s actions could have put the lives of “an untold number” of civilians at risk.
The New York Daily News reports that Moore’s defence lawyer Deborah Colson told Manhattan Federal Court that her client suffers from several health problems, and was hospitalised on several occasions last month after “vomiting uncontrollably”.
If convicted, Moore could face a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, while Wilson could be jailed for 15 years.