New York woman faces prison over Pennsylvania straw buys

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Purchasing a gun that’s actually intended for someone else is a felony-level offense under federal law, with the potential of a ten-year prison sentence for those convicted of engaging in a straw buy. That maximum sentence is off the table for one woman from Staten Island, New York, however, after she pled guilty to purchasing multiple firearms over a period of several weeks beginning in March of 2020.

According to authorities, 55-year old Gina Santoro instead faces the possibility of five years in federal prison for her role in the gun trafficking scheme, which police say allowed Santoro’s boyfriend to murder two people later that year; one of them a woman who was seven months pregnant.

Brooklyn federal prosecutors allege Santoro first bought guns on March 5, 2020. She traveled with others to Pennsylvania that day and obtained a Pennsylvania driver’s license, said the indictment.

The other individuals are not identified.

Afterward, Santoro used the driver’s license to buy two Ruger .22-caliber pistols from a gun dealer in East Earl, Pa., said the indictment. The group returned to Staten Island, the indictment said.

Nine days later, on March 14, Santoro and others went back to Pennsylvania. This time, she purchased one Ruger .22-caliber pistol and a 9 mm pistol from a different dealer in Cresco, Pa., said the indictment.

Santoro and others allegedly returned to that same dealer about a month later on April 11. She bought another 9 mm pistol before once again returning to Staten Island, the indictment said.

A week later, on April 18, Santoro purchased three .22-caliber Ruger pistols from the dealer in Cresco, said the indictment.

According to police, Santoro’s boyfriend Phillip Moreno allegedly used one of the .22-caliber pistols on May 11th, 2020 to kill Alafia Rodridguez and Ana DeSousa in their Staten Island home, along with wounding another woman inside the home at the time. DeSousa was seven months pregnant, and the couple also had a 2-year old daughter who was uninjured in the attack.

Moreno has yet to stand trial for those murders, though the case is still pending. Moreno was nabbed by authorities as he was leaving the home, and evidence suggests that robbery may have been a motive in the attack.

There were no signs of forced entry, leading detectives to believe the alleged killer was either let inside the residence or the door was left unlocked, law enforcement sources said.

The zip ties recovered from Moreno possibly indicate he intended to tie up someone at the home – which is more typical for a heist than a murder, sources said.

Friends of Rodriguez have told the Daily News he and Moreno had a feud dating back years.

Moreno was ineligible to legally possess or purchase a firearm thanks to multiple felony convictions in his past, including a first-degree manslaughter charge in the early 1990s. He had most recently been released from prison in 2017 after serving several years for assault as well as drug and weapons possession charges.

Gina Santoro should have known that her boyfriend was prohibited by law from possessing a gun, but even if she were clueless when they started dating, once she fraudulently obtained a Pennsylvania drivers license in order to be able to purchase handguns in the state it was obvious that a crime was being committed. The question now is how much time will Santoro actually receive. She’s eligible for five years in federal prison, but it’s entirely possible that she’ll be sentenced to much less, as we’ve seen in many other instances of straw purchasers who’ve pled guilty to similar crimes. Santoro’s sentencing is currently scheduled for early July, and we’ll do our best to update this story once we know whether or not her punishment will fit the crime.