A Bay Ridge cop-turned-gunrunner is facing more than five years in prison now that he’s pleaded guilty to bootlegging more than $1 million in stolen goods.
William Masso, a 68th Precinct officer arrested in October along with four other active and retired Bay Ridge cops, tearfully pleaded guilty to four counts of conspiracy in Manhattan federal court on Monday. He automatically lost his job, will receive prison time, and be forced to pay a $50,000 fine when he comes back to court for sentencing on June 15, federal prosecutors said.
Masso is still facing 20 years, but the plea deal hammered out on Monday ensures that the actual punishment could be reduced to just five or six years on his sentencing date, according to published reports.
“William Masso brought dishonor and disrepute to his fellow officers and was willing to endanger others for his own personal gain,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “With today’s guilty plea, the NYPD, which is the finest police force in the world, is one step closer to putting this sorry episode behind it.”
Masso’s lawyer, Ron Fischetti, told reporters outside court that his client was a “broken man” who allowed a small transgression to get out of hand.
“He was trying to buy a house for his family and he started [running] cigarettes. It just got bigger and bigger,” Fischetti explained. “He got sucked in and just ran and ran and ran. His family is just absolutely crushed.”
Feds arrested Masso and his crew last October following a two-year investigation that culminated in a sting operation.
Prosecutors claim the gang imported $1 million worth of cigarettes, slot machines and a wide variety of firearms, including M-16 rifles, 16 handguns and a shotgun.
The investigation began in 2009, when an undercover informant learned about Masso’s bootlegging activities and began recording conversations with the cop.
On one tape, Masso, 48, told the stoolie that his cop buddies could provide protection for anyone smuggling untaxed cigarettes into the state.
“Whatever he wants we can get — one guy 7-foot tall, with muscles out to here,” Masso said in one recording. “We got that. You want a guy who beat the [bejesus] out of somebody who bothers him, we got that. We got cops with vests and guns.”
Sources told Brooklyn Daily in October that Masso — cousin to Genovese crime-family capo Alphonse “Allie Shades” Malangone — was attracted to the gritty glamour of the mafia lifestyle.
“Masso was always a wannabe wise guy,” said one police source.
The feds busted the cops after the informant asked Masso’s crew, which included 68th Precinct Police Officers Eddie Goris and John Mahoney, as well as retired 68th Precinct Police Officers Joseph Trischitta, Marco Venezia and Richard Melnik, to buy a cache of firearms — which the FBI rendered inoperable — and transport them to New York.
Once the job was completed, the FBI swooped in and arrested the five officers — which some in Bay Ridge considered neighborhood heroes.
Trischitta and Venezia, who worked in the 68th Precinct’s Community Affairs office, had been lauded several times during their careers in Bay Ridge. Venezia even received a commendation from state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), a former cop himself, when the community affairs cop retired in 2010.
Golden later said that he regretted honoring Venezia.