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NYPD sting charges Astoria man, 3 others in gun ring

An Astoria man and three others were indicted last week on charges of illegally selling firearms, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Juan Leon, 30, of Astoria; Ainsley Waddel, 36, of Brooklyn; and Newport News, Va., residents Corey Odle, 31, and Bryan Brown, 22, allegedly took part in an illegal gun ring that sold more than two dozen firearms to undercover police officers over nine months, the DA said.

“These defendants brazenly attempted to flood the streets of New York City with weapons that were illegally moved up from the South along the so-called ‘Iron Pipeline’ — Interstate 95,” Brown said in a statement. “These weapons typically wind up in the hands of criminals and pose a serious danger to all of our residents.”

The defendants are charged with criminal sale of a firearm, weapons possession, sales of a controlled substance and conspiracy. If convicted, each faces up to 25 years in prison, the DA said. Leon and Waddel were arraigned Friday, while Odle and Brown were arrested in Virginia and being taken to New York to face charges, Brown said.

The investigation, known as “Operation Ace in the Hole,” began in August 2008 when detectives assigned to the NYPD’s Firearms Investigation Unit learned the defendants were suspected illegal gun merchants, Brown said.

Law enforcement agencies set up a sting operation that included face-to-face street transactions, leading to the sale of 30 weapons to undercover officers in Queens and Brooklyn between Aug. 18, 2008, and April 29, 2009.

On Oct. 6, 2008, Leon allegedly met with an officer in Queens and sold a loaded nine-millimeter pistol and a 12-gauge shotgun, Brown said. On Dec. 30, all four men met with an undercover officer in Brooklyn and allegedly sold eight weapons, including nine-millimeter and .32-, .40- and .45-caliber handguns, the DA said.

Then on April 19, 2009, all four defendants met with an undercover officer in Brooklyn and sold two .40-caliber handguns.

Other weapons sold during that time included a sawed-off shotgun and a hunting rifle with the stock removed, the DA’s office said.

The price allegedly paid for each weapon ranged from $500 to $1,300 with most weapons typically going for about $1,000, Brown said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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