A complaint from a customer who told investigators in December he could not get his handgun back from a repair shop is what led authorities to a Centereach man with 300 illegal firearms in his home, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said Thursday.
Jay R. Steiner, 66, was arrested and charged with illegal weapons possession in January after investigators confiscated the cache of weapons and ammunition from his Tree Road home, which Spota said was being used to run an illegal gunsmithing business.
Steiner was charged with one felony count of first-degree criminal possession of a weapon, which is illegal possession of more than 10 operable firearms, and remains free on bail.
Steiner did not return calls seeking comment Thursday, but his attorney, William Eppig of West Islip, said in January after Steiner's arraignment that "most of what he had was antique guns, some of which are quite valuable."
Eppig, who could not be reached Thursday, said Steiner is a collector and had retired from the firearms business about six years ago. Steiner is due back in First District Court in Central Islip on April 29.
On Thursday, Spota said in a news conference in Hauppauge that Steiner did not have a license to run a gunsmith business in Suffolk County, or a pistol permit.
"Plain and simply, he should not have had those guns. And the way he stored them is, in my view, shocking," Spota said.
Spota said the Suffolk County Crime Lab this week completed its testing on 85 handguns, which he said Steiner had illegally. Those handguns, as well as photos from inside Steiner's home before the weapons had been confiscated, were on display. One picture showed a handgun hanging on a coat hook in the kitchen with a hat covering it. He said it was hanging by a pantry door. Another showed a neat line of shotguns draped by hanging shirts in a closet.
"We see weapons all over the place," Spota said. "They are all illegally possessed by Mr. Steiner."
Six of the 85 seized handguns were fully loaded, Spota said. In addition, 230 to 250 assorted rifles and shotguns were found throughout the residence.
Investigators said Steiner once had a federal firearm license allowing him to buy and sell guns, but it expired in 2004.
In the basement, Spota said, police found devices called drop-in auto sears, which can be used to convert semiautomatic rifles into automatic machine guns.
Spota said his office has been in touch with the U.S. attorney's office to determine if the case against Steiner should be federally prosecuted.