A.G. Schneiderman Announces Thirty-Two Count Indictment Of Two Defendants Charged With Illegally Trafficking Untraceable ‘Ghost Guns’

Joint OAG-NYSP “Operation Ghostbusters” Leads To Indictments Against Two Defendants Arrested In June For Allegedly Selling A Dozen Ghost Guns, Including AR-15s; Defendants Could Face 25 Years In Prison

Ghost Guns Are Manufactured Cheaply Without The Serial Numbers That Help Law Enforcement Trace Crime Guns; Key Defendant, While Imprisoned, Allegedly Collaborated With Wife To Order Gun Parts

Schneiderman: Ghost Guns Are The New Frontier Of Illegal Firearms Trafficking

NEW YORK—Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a thirty-two count indictment of Thomas Weber and Antonio Himonitis alleging the duo 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.

As alleged in the original criminal complaint in June, Defendant Himonitis and a co-conspirator ordered unfinished gun parts from different manufacturers across the country and assembled them into at least a dozen fully-functional ghost guns, which they then sold to undercover investigators posing as gun trafficking gang members.  As alleged in the complaint, Himonitis and Weber were in prison at the time they first devised a plan to assemble and sell the illegal weapons. Weber and Himonitis were arrested on June 25th in Long Island.

These arrests mark the first time a state law enforcement agency has indicted individuals on charges of assembling and selling ghost guns. Weber and Himonitis are charged with Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the First Degree, Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, and multiple counts of Criminal Possession of a Firearm in the Third Degree. If convicted, Weber and Himonitis face up to 25 years in prison.

“Ghost guns represent a new, dangerous frontier of illegal firearm trafficking—the creation of homemade, completely untraceable, military-grade firearms,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “It does not matter if you build it yourself or buy it off the street corner—an illegal gun is an illegal gun, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said, "These individuals have no regard for the damage these weapons could do to a community – if put in the wrong hands. By getting these weapons off our streets and stopping this business – we are preventing crimes, and perhaps even saving lives. I want to thank the Attorney General and Organized Crime Task Force for their efforts in another successful case. The State Police will continue to do all we can to keep illegal guns out of our communities."

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 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. 

As investigators found—and as many in law enforcement have long recognized—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.”

“Operation Ghostbusters” was initiated in response to this growing trend. Back in April, an undercover investigator met with Defendant Thomas Weber in Nassau County Correction Facility East. As alleged in the criminal complaint, Weber stated that his associate, Defendant Antonio Himonitis, could acquire AR-10 rifles that would sell at $5,000 apiece. A day later, Himonitis allegedly called a co-conspirator from Nassau County Jail and instructed Collins to do an Internet search for “AR-15 Easy Jig,” a tool that is used to machine unfinished lower receivers.

In May, an undercover investigator met directly with Himonitis the day he was released from Nassau County Jail at a hotel in Uniondale, NY to allegedly discuss Himonitis’ method for constructing firearms with lower receivers. Over a period of several weeks, an undercover investigator allegedly 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.

A review of UPS records from May and June 2015 showed that nineteen packages from various gun manufacturers across the United States were allegedly delivered to the Suffolk County home of Himonitis and Collins, which they shared with a young child.

Defendants Weber and Himonitis are charged with Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (Count 1), Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the First Degree (Count 2), Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree (Count 3), Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the Third Degree (Counts 7-13), Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree (Counts 14-20), Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the Third Degree (Counts 21-24), Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree (Count 25-28), Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree (Counts 29-32). Defendant Weber is charged with additional counts of Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the Third Degree (Counts 4 & 6) and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree (Count 5).

The charges against the defendants are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Since 2011, OCTF has seized 274 firearms from gun traffickers. During the same time period, OCTF has also busted 24 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 investigation was conducted by OCTF Special Investigator George Gundlach, Supervising Investigator Kevin McCann and Deputy Chief Investigator Chris Vasta, with the assistance of OCTF Analyst Nicole Accurso.  The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Dominick Zarella.  New York State Police Investigator Edward Franke and Joseph Demaria of the New York State Police Gun Investigation Unit, under the supervision of New York State Police Major Joseph Tripodo, and Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico

The case is being 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.