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Post date: April 28 2016

A.G. Schneiderman Announces 11 Year Jail Sentence Of Defendant Convicted For Illegally Trafficking Untraceable ‘Ghost Guns’

Joint OAG-NYSP “Operation Ghostbusters” Leads To A Top Count Conviction Of Antonio Himonitis And A Sentence Of 11 Years In State Prison, Following Earlier Sentence Of Co-Defendant To 9 Years In Prison

Convictions Mark First Time State Law Enforcement Agency Has Prosecuted Individuals On Charges Of Assembling And Selling Ghost Guns; Ghost Guns Are Manufactured Without The Serial Numbers That Help Law Enforcement Trace Crime Guns

Schneiderman: It Is Critical That Law Enforcement Across The Country Address This New Method Of Illegally Selling And Transporting Guns

NEW YORK—Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today the sentencing of Antonio Himonitis on charges that he fabricated and sold untraceable guns—known as “ghost guns”—in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Led by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the New York State Police (NYSP), “Operation Ghostbusters” uncovered this alleged scheme to sell ghost guns over the course of two months. Defendant Himonitis ordered unfinished gun parts from different manufacturers across the country and assembled them into eleven fully-functional ghost guns, which he then sold to undercover investigators posing as gun trafficking gang members.  On March 18, 2016, Himonitis plead guilty to the top count of Criminal sale of Firearm in the First Degree, a B felony, and related charges.

On March 14, 2016, Thomas Weber was sentenced to 9 years prison following his plea of guilty to Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the First Degree and related charges.  These convictions mark the first time a state law enforcement agency has prosecuted individuals on charges of assembling and selling ghost guns.

“This sentence demonstrates my office is serious about addressing the proliferation of ghost guns—a new and extremely dangerous form of gun trafficking,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Ghost guns can be created by anyone, anywhere, so long as they have a little bit of cash and some very basic tools, and it is critical that law enforcement across the country address this new brand of gun trafficking.”

“Operation Ghostbusters” was initiated in response to the growing trend of the manufacturing and distribution of ghost guns.  As alleged in the complaint, in April 2015, an undercover investigator met with Defendant Thomas Weber in Nassau County Correction Facility East. In May 2015, an undercover investigator met directly with Himonitis the day he was released from Nassau County Jail at a hotel in Uniondale, NY to discuss Himonitis’ method for constructing firearms from unfinished lower receivers. Over a period of several weeks, an undercover investigator purchased twelve fully-functional assault weapons from Himonitis at a motel in Nassau County.  As alleged in the complaint, these assault weapons did not have serial numbers or contain any other identifying markers.

The assemblage of every ghost gun relies upon the purchase and simple modification of a firearm’s key component—the lower receiver. Composed of either metal or plastic, the lower receiver holds the upper, lower, and rear portions of the firearm together and is responsible for the actual “firing” of the bullet. Aside from a fully assembled firearm, the lower receiver is the only piece that is independently considered a firearm and is thus subject to firearms regulation under Federal law.

However, an incomplete lower receiver—lacking certain holes, slots, or cavities—is not considered a firearm, but instead regulated as if it were just a piece of metal. As alleged in the complaint, the defendants exploited this “unfinished receiver” loophole to purchase the receivers on the internet without undergoing a background check. Upon receiving the unfinished lower receiver, the defendants then needed to make only simple modifications to the part to transform it into a fully functional lower receiver.

Investigators found purchasers must make only a few small changes with a common drill press to transform any unfinished receiver into a fully-operational lower receiver. There are numerous online tutorials and instructional videos on how to properly mill a lower receiver, as well as precision tools such as a “jig kit” – a stencil-like tool – sold commercially to help guide an individual through the process. Once milled, the firearm typically remains unregistered and the lower receiver is not branded with a serial number. It is untraceable—a ghost gun.

In the past two years, OCTF has seized over 300 firearms from gun traffickers. During the same time period, OCTF has also busted 25 large narcotics trafficking gangs in more than 560 felony narcotics arrests, and seized from them more than $1.5 million and more than 2,000 pounds of illegal drugs.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Deputy Attorney General Howard Feldberg.  Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff runs the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice is Kelly Donovan.

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