A 13-month sting operation led by undercover cops discovered the individuals selling sawed-off shotguns and semi-automatic pistols - among other deadly weapons - that ranged in price from $500 to $2,400 on the black market.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown identified the Brooklyn defendants as Thomas Suarez, 26, and brothers Clinton Kwaak, 24 and Scott Kwaak, 21. The other two defendants, who hail from Queens, were identified as Ali Kabeer, 25, and Ali Hassan, 42.
The five defendants have been charged in varying degrees in a 63-count indictment including criminal sale of a firearm, as well as the manufacture, transport, disposition and defacement of weapons and conspiracy.
The indictment charges that the defendants sold the weapons to undercover officers at various locations throughout Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan between July 2, 2007, and August 21, 2008.
If convicted, Thomas Suarez and Scott Kwaak each face up to 25 years in prison; Ali Kabeer faces up to 15; and Ali Hassan and Clinton Kwaak each face up to seven years behind bars.
Four of the defendants are in custody and are being arraigned in Queens County Supreme Court. The fifth defendant, Ali Kabeer, has been located in Florida and is expected to either return voluntarily or be extradited.
Suarez was held on Monday pending a bail argument, but his attorney, David Zucker, could not be reached for further details after numerous unanswered calls were placed to his law office.
Scott Kwaak’s bail was set at $500,000. His lawyer had no comment on the case. Meanwhile, Clinton Kwaak’s bail was set at $25,000, and Hassan’s at $100,000.
According to the Queens District Attorney’s Office, the investigation, dubbed Operation Tommy Gun, began in July of 2007 when detectives assigned to the NYPD’s Firearms Investigation Unit gathered street information alleging that five defendants were illegal gun merchants.
From then on detectives and prosecutors assigned to the DA’s Narcotics Investigations Bureau set up “sting” operations that included a series of telephone conversations followed by face-to-face street transactions.
“The defendants are accused of attempting to seed the streets of New York with dozens of illegal weapons that would have posed a serious public safety threat if their plan had been carried out,” said Brown.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that police have been focusing on gun control throughout the five boroughs.
“So far this year, New York City Police officers have taken over 3,000 guns off of city streets,” Kelly said. “They include the 38 guns recovered in this case, and all had the potential to inflict death and untold misery.”