THE BRONX — A week after former high school teacher Theophilus Burroughs was sentenced to 15 years in state prison in a plea bargain, PIX11 Investigates secured the undercover video that put him in jail for offering to sell heavy weapons to people he thought had terror connections.
The video was set up by investigators from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance in 2010 on Halperin Avenue in the Bronx as part of a sting operation designed to catch cigarette smugglers — a highly profitable enterprise that is suspected of financing terrorism.
Burroughs soon made it apparent that he wanted to up the ante, believing that confidential informants posing as smugglers knew terrorists in Palestine and Africa.
“I’m for the people,” Burroughs proclaimed on the video. “Hamas kicks ass! Hezbollah kicks ass!”
“He believes both my C.I.'s (confidential informants)—both Arabic—are with Hamas and he wants to supply weapons," Tom Stanton, who was running the sting operation for the state in 2010, said when the video was made.
Burroughs, a former U.S. Marine who once taught music at Stuyvesant High School before running into administrative trouble at a Brooklyn high school, made it clear he knew weapons and promised he could bring them to a facility in South Carolina.
“I can’t always guarantee Ak-47’S,” Burroughs said on the tape, “but the M-14 is just as good, M-16’s. All carry large rounds.”
Burroughs was extremely animated when he then launched into a discussion about rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft devices in general.
And he made an almost prophetic statement, when he joked that one of the undercovers had called him CIA—and he hoped the “smugglers” weren't with the federal spy agency.
What he didn’t know was the agency in question was working for New York State, not the feds.
Stanton said that after Burroughs made statements on another tape about potential attacks on a West Side Jewish Center — or a police precinct — the teacher was arrested in 2010.
Investigators found $73,000 in cash inside his Newark, New Jersey, apartment.
Burroughs spent five years in jail, trying to work out a plea bargain with Bronx prosecutors.
He backed out of one agreement.
When he came back to the table, the resulting deal resulted in several more years in prison for him.