FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 23, 2009
MAYOR BLOOMBERG, BROOKLYN DISTRICT ATTORNEY HYNES AND POLICE COMMISSIONER KELLY ANNOUNCE INDICTMENT IN FLORIDA-TO-NEW YORK ILLEGAL GUN TRAFFICKING RING
Investigation Takes 56 Guns Off Street
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today announced the indictment of two individuals charged with running a Florida-to-New York gun trafficking ring. The 105-count indictment charges Watson Joachin, 27, and Ryan Woodard, 22, with selling dozens of guns to undercover officers during a three-month investigation. The investigation comes just weeks after the City's undercover investigation into out-of-state gun shows found dealers repeatedly acting in apparent violation of federal law and selling to undercover investigators posing as criminals. The Mayor, District Attorney and Police Commissioner were joined at the announcement, held at City Hall, by Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt and Michael Vecchione, Chief of the Rackets Division in the Office of the Kings County District Attorney.
"The NYPD and Brooklyn District Attorney's office have taken guns off our streets and made our City safer," said Mayor Bloomberg. "These investigations are so important because even though we've cut crime to historic lows, children like Vada Vasquez are still getting shot on our streets. The undercover "buy and busts" that made this indictment possible are extremely dangerous, and I want to thank everyone involved in this case for their courageous work."
"The illegal guns confiscated in this investigation were bound for the streets of Brooklyn, to be used in murders, assaults, and armed robberies, but thanks to a concerted effort by my office and the NYPD, these weapons won't hurt anyone and nor will their dealers," said District Attorney Hynes.
"We'll accept oranges from the sunshine state but not guns," said Commissioner Kelly. "Countless lives were spared when these illegal guns were taken out circulation by police officers who risked their lives to do it. I want to commend them and the prosecutors who brought these gun traffickers to justice."
The indictment includes charges for the sale or possession of 46 guns - including 28 semi-automatic pistols, six revolvers, three assault rifles, four sawed-off shotguns, and five rifles - to undercover detectives. On four occasions, detectives purchased a total of 40 guns. A fifth sale was arranged, but instead of carrying it out, officers raided the defendant's Brooklyn safe house and confiscated six additional guns. Through the investigation, ten additional guns were taken off the streets.
Investigators believe the guns, worth more than $40,000, were primarily purchased in Florida. Some were brand new, with safety stickers and barrel plugs affixed. Others had been defaced, meaning their serial numbers had been removed.
District Attorney Hynes used the opportunity of the indictment to call for a change in state law, with respect to the sale and possession of firearms that have been transported from outside New York State. The proposal would increase the class of the offense by one level. For instance, the charge of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, currently a Class-C Felony, would become a Class-B Felony, if the gun were determined to be from outside the state. The maximum penalty would increase from 15 years in prison, for a Class-C Felony, to 25 years for a Class-B Felony.
District Attorney Hynes also called for an increase, by one level, in offenses involving the sale of firearms, regardless of where the weapons originated. For instance, currently, Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the First Degree, is a Class-B Felony, with a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. Under DA Hynes' proposal, that charge would become a Class-A Felony, with a maximum of Life in Prison.
Charges against the defendants include multiple counts of Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the First Degree, Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the Second Degree, Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the Third Degree, Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the First Degree, and Criminal Possession of a Weapon on the Second. The top count, Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the First Degree carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant's guilt.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Gregg Pinto.
Stu Loeser / Jason Post (212) 788-2958
Jonah Bruno (DA Hynes) (718) 250-2300
Paul Browne (Police)