Three Suffolk County residents are facing charges they illegally assembled and sold untraceable military-grade assault weapons, state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said.
Thomas Weber, 31, of Lindenhurst, and Antonio Himonitis, 43, and Diana Collins, 32, both of Holtsville, were arrested Thursday night on charges that they fabricated and sold the untraceable weapons -- also known as "ghost guns" -- in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to the attorney general's office.
The investigation, called "Operation Ghostbusters," was led by the attorney general's organized-crime task force and New York State Police.
"These guns were not meant for hunting. These guns were meant for hunting people," State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said Friday at a news conference in Manhattan.
The arrests mark the first time a state law enforcement agency has charged individuals with the assembly and sale of ghost guns, according to a statement by Schneiderman's office.
"Ghost guns are the next frontier of illegal firearm trafficking," Schneiderman said. "The allegations against these defendants show just how easy it is for criminals to make completely untraceable, military-grade firearms."
Weber, Himonitis and Collins are each charged with first- and third-degree criminal sale of a firearm and fourth-degree conspiracy. Himonitis and Collins are also charged with endangering the welfare of a child because, authorities said, a child was home while the couple assembled the assault weapons. If convicted, Weber, Collins and Himonitis each face up to 25 years in prison.
At arraignment in county court in Central Islip, Himonitis and Collins were ordered held without bail. Collins is due back in court Monday; Himonitis on July 6.
After Himonitis' arraignment, his attorney, Joseph A. Lo Piccolo of Garden City, said, "The matter is under investigation."
Weber is serving a 7-month sentence in Nassau County jail for robbery. He is due back in court July 1.
According to the criminal complaint, Himonitis and Collins ordered gun parts online from different manufacturers nationwide and assembled them into at least a dozen fully functional weapons. They then sold the finished weapons to undercover investigators posing as gun-trafficking gang members, the complaint said.
One of the investigators met in April with Weber at the Nassau jail. Weber told the investigator Himonitis was an Army Ranger veteran with a connection in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, who had access to AR-10 machine guns at a cost of $5,000 each, the complaint said.
Himonitis, who investigators later learned was actually a Navy deserter, was also an inmate in the jail at the time, the complaint said. He was serving time for second-degree attempted possession of a weapon.
A day after the meeting with Weber, investigators recorded a jailhouse phone conversation between Himonitis and Collins. In the call, Himonitis instructed Collins to search the Internet and look for parts so he could assemble the weapons for the undercover investigator after his release set for May 6, according to the complaint.
UPS records from last month and this month showed that 19 packages from various gun manufacturers containing firearm parts were allegedly delivered to Himonitis' and Collins' home.
Himonitis sold seven of the weapons to an undercover officer on May 20 for $12,000 cash and an agreement he'd get an additional $14,600 in installments, officials said. Investigators found no serial numbers on the fully operational weapons.