- Associated Press - Friday, May 20, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A man has pleaded guilty to paying people to buy guns that were then smuggled to New York and sold on the street.

Michael Bassier, who’s from New York, entered the plea before a federal judge in Pittsburgh on Thursday. The 31-year-old faces up to 10 years in prison when he returns for sentencing in December.

Bassier, who lives in Brooklyn, aided and abetted the purchase of 44 guns between December 2014 and August 2015. Because he is a convicted felon, he can’t legally buy guns, federal prosecutors said.

That’s why Bassier enlisted others to buy the guns, which he then smuggled on cheap interstate bus trips back to New York and sold for a huge profit. Many of the guns were bought for about $150 to $300 and were resold for $800 to $1,200, sometimes as much as $2,500, authorities said.

All the straw purchasers who helped Bassier buy the guns have previously pleaded guilty.

The federal charges are related to an undercover investigation by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, a Democrat, who announced charges against Bassier and others in October. Bassier still faces prosecution there, according to federal authorities in Pittsburgh.

Thompson, at his news conference last year, said 90 percent of the guns on New York streets are being bought out of state and smuggled in.

Bassier received more than 100 weapons from Atlanta and the Pittsburgh-area by having other people buy them for him, and then he or others would carry them by bus.

“I’ve got MAC-10s on me, an SK assault rifle and four handguns, and I’m walking through New York,” Bassier bragged in a phone call intercepted by authorities in March 2015.

An undercover New York Police Department officer broke up the ring by gaining Bassier’s trust and becoming his exclusive customer. The undercover officer wound up buying 112 weapons in deals carried out in a Brooklyn pharmacy parking lot, Thompson said.

Bassier’s co-defendant in Pittsburgh, Nathan Lawrence, also is from Brooklyn but had a girlfriend in western Pennsylvania.

Online court records show he was scheduled to plead guilty last month but has since been scheduled for trial in October before a federal jury in Pittsburgh. His attorneys didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment Friday.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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