A suburban police department resold hundreds of confiscated and surrendered firearms to gun shops, including one dealer now in prison for selling weapons to felons, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Another of the shops lost its license last summer after authorities linked guns sold there to 19 homicides, including the killing of a Philadelphia police officer, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Upper Darby police stopped the resale practice after federal agents raided a shop in 2005 and traced an illegal sawed-off shotgun back to the department.
”This involves hundreds of guns,” retired police detective Ray Britt said. ”Lots of people knew it was happening, and some officers tried to stop it. But it went on for years.”
Though it is legal for police departments in Pennsylvania and many other states to sell confiscated firearms to federally licensed gun shops, several large law enforcement agencies in the Philadelphia region say it is a bad idea.
Michael Chitwood, who became chief of the 127-member Upper Darby force in August 2005, said he was cooperating with an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
”I have not seen anything — anything — that says that the Upper Darby Police Department illegally took guns out of here and sold them to anybody else,” Chitwood said. ”What happened prior to me coming here, I’m not responsible for, I wasn’t involved in, I don’t know.”
Previous chief Vincent J. Ficchi did not respond to requests for comment.
Upper Darby Capt. George Rhoades said police had supplied weapons to three gun shops, according to one ATF document.
One of them, Mac’s Gun Shop, was raided by the ATF in July 2005 during an unrelated probe. Owner Michael McGinnis pleaded guilty to selling guns to felons; he is serving more than four years in prison.
McGinnis told authorities he had received a sawed-off shotgun and AR-15 assault rifle from Upper Darby police.
Since the 2005 raid, guns confiscated by Upper Darby police have been melted down, township manager Thomas Judge Jr. said.