Packing guns in pie tins and socks, a Georgia man supplied more than a dozen illegal weapons for sale in New York simply by sending them via express mail, police and prosecutors said Thursday.
"He didn't use a runner. He didn't typically deliver the guns himself," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. Instead, Mark Winston used an "older, less conventional method — the U.S. mail."
Together, the Macon, Ga., man nicknamed "Koo" and New Yorker Walter "Butta" Dandridge illicitly peddled more than 40 guns over more than a year, not realizing their buyer was an undercover detective, according to Kelly and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
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The case marks the latest in a spate of gun-trafficking arrests New York City authorities have made in recent months. A sprawling case unveiled last month involved 19 suspects, 254 guns and allegations of smuggling them from the Carolinas to New York by secreting them in luggage on discount buses.
Dandridge, 35, pleaded not guilty earlier this week to weapons and conspiracy charges. His lawyer, Robert Levy, declined to comment further Thursday.
Winston, 39, is awaiting extradition from Georgia. Authorities there and in New York weren't sure whether he had a lawyer.
The detective initially bought more than a dozen guns from Dandridge at a Harlem apartment, then was introduced to Winston as Dandridge's supplier, police and prosecutors said.
Then the guns-by-mail sales began, initially with Dandridge as a middleman, before Winston decided to cut him out and ship to the undercover directly, the authorities said.
"I'm done with Butta. You're going to be my guy in New York," Winston told the detective, according to Kelly.
The baking-tin-and-clothing packaging may have been intended to defeat X-ray machines or other mail-security devices. But Winston supplied his buyer with tracking numbers, which authorities used to intercept the packages, police and prosecutors said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg often assails the flow of illegal guns into the city from other states. His administration has sued dozens of out-of-state gun dealers, resulting in court-appointed monitoring for many.