Several men charged in an airport gun smuggling case that first came to light in December 2014 are now facing upgraded charges.
The defendants allegedly trafficked guns from Atlanta to New York on airline flights, conspiring to sell firearms purchased in Georgia -- including AK-47 assault weapons -- in Brooklyn. A former Delta Air Lines employee allegedly carried backpacks and bags of guns and ammunition on airline flights nearly 20 times.
The Brooklyn district attorney announced Wednesday a 657-count indictment charging three men with aggravated enterprise corruption, carrying a penalty of up to life in prison. The district attorney's office says it's the first time the statute has been used in New York.
"Upon further investigation and review upgraded charges are appropriate in this case, which exposed a gaping hole in our airport and national security," said Brooklyn district attorney Ken Thompson in a written statement.
Four men had previously been charged for allegedly conspiring to sell 153 firearms, most of them bought in Georgia and destined for Brooklyn.
NYPD investigators arrested former Delta employee Mark Quentin Henry in December 2014 after he flew from Atlanta to New York with 18 handguns in a carry-on bag.
Later that month, authorities here arrested Eugene Harvey of College Park, who worked as a Delta baggage handler at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. He allegedly took the weapons past security and handed them off to Henry.
Henry, Harvey and a Brooklyn man are charged with aggravated enterprise corruption.
The Brooklyn district attorney's office alleges that Henry purchased most of the guns through a website, www.theoutdoorstrader.com, buying 10 to 20 guns at a time and picking them up from sellers around Atlanta. He allegedly made 17 trips between New York airports and Hartsfield-Jackson from May to December 2014. The Brooklyn man, Ernest Lenau, allegedly took the guns and sold them to an undercover detective.
Henry, a former Delta ramp agent, allegedly used the flight privileges of his mother, a retired Delta employee, to make the flights.
Harvey allegedly smuggled the guns into secure areas of Hartsfield-Jackson via an employee entrance.
Delta said it is working closely with law enforcement, and partnering with the airport and the Transportation Security Administration to establish employee screening at Hartsfield-Jackson.