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Former community affairs cop admits to running guns

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A beloved Bay Ridge cop-turned-gun runner admitted to transporting $1 million in illegal firearms, smokes and stolen slot machines across state lines — crimes that could put him in prison for two and a half years.

Marco Venezia, 46, a 68th Precinct community affairs officer, pleaded guilty along with a co-conspirator David Kanwisher, a New Jersey correctional officer, for being part of a conspiracy to transport and receive stolen merchandise.

Along with jail time, Venezia will be forced to pay $8,000 in fines, federal prosecutors said.

“As law enforcement officers, Marco Venezia and David Kanwisher were supposed to uphold the law, not break it,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “They betrayed their duties in order to make a quick profit, and now they will pay for their crimes.”

Venezia admitted to transporting the stolen booty, which included three M-16 rifles, a shotgun, 16 handguns, six slot machines, and thousands of cartons of cigarettes. His attorney did not return a call for comment.

The ringleader of the crooked gang, William Masso — who also worked in the 68th Precinct — pleaded guilty for his role on Feb. 7. Venezia and fellow community affairs cop Joe Trischitta were arrested with Masso in October when the two-year investigation into the crooked gang came to a close.

Six of the arrested officers served in the 68th Precinct, but news of Trischitta and Venezia’s arrest hit Bay Ridge residents especially hard.

Both cops retired in 2010 after serving for 20 years, but they didn’t just walk the beat — they went to local community board meetings, the 68th Precinct Community Council, and other civic groups, as they moonlighted as gun runners, officials said.

Venezia was so loved by the community that state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) introduced a bill honoring the cop when he retired.

“Marco Venezia has been dedicated to fostering police-community relations and bolstering cooperation between the two entities in order to make the neighborhoods he has served a better place to live and work,” Golden wrote in the resolution.

Golden, a former police officer himself, later said that he regretted honoring the dirty cop.

Venezia received “cop of the month” awards from the 68th Precinct Community Council in 2007 for organizing an annual National Night Out Against Crime event. In 2009, Community Board 10 and former 68th Precinct commanding officer Deputy Inspector Eric Rodriguez honored Venezia with a certificate of appreciation at a board meeting, where they gave him “the honor of the pledge” — a monthly board rite extended to many of the borough’s respected officials.

When he wasn’t involved in running guns and cigarettes, Venezia was responsible for planning events and designing emergency plans and evacuation routes for local schools.

Venezia will be sentenced on June 21, prosecutors said.

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@cnglocal.com or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at twitter.com/dsmacleod.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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