A Riverhead judge sentenced a Navy deserter from Holtsville to 11 years in prison Thursday for assembling “ghost guns” — untraceable military grade assault weapons — he then sold on the black market in Nassau and Suffolk counties, authorities said.
Antonio Himonitis, 43, appeared in a Suffolk County courtroom in Riverhead Thursday where state Supreme Court Justice John Collins ordered him to prison.
He pleaded guilty in March to criminal sale of a firearm after his arrest with two others charged in the scheme. His attorney, David Levine of Brooklyn, declined to comment Thursday night. The three were taken into custody June 26, 2015 after an investigation by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s organized crime task force and New York State Police called “Operation Ghostbusters.”
Thomas Weber, 32, of Lindenhurst, was sentenced March 14 to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree criminal sale of a firearm and related charges. Court records show the third defendant, Diana Collins, 33, of Holtsville, is due back in court May 20.
The arrests followed an undercover operation where a state investigator posing as gun-trafficking gangster met with Weber at Nassau County jail while he served time in an unrelated case.
In a statement Thursday, the attorney general said authorities consider ghost guns, “a new and extremely dangerous form of gun trafficking. . . . Ghost guns can be created by anyone, anywhere, so long as they have a little bit of cash and some very basic tools.”
According to authorities, the trio fabricated and sold the untraceable weapons after ordering “unfinished” gun parts online from different manufacturers nationwide. They then and pieced them together into at least a dozen fully functional assault weapons.
Unfinished gun parts refers to the lower reciever on firearms. Other than a fully assembled firearm, a finished lower reciever, which holds the main sections of the weapon together and is responsible for firing the bullet, is the only part subject to federal regulation, Schneiderman’s office said.
Unfinished lower recievers lack specific holes, cavities and slots and aren’t considered firearms, officials said. Himonitis and the others “exploited this unfinished reciever loophole” to order them online and avoid background checks, state authorities said, adding that with minor modifications, they were fully functioning and untracable assault weapons, Schneiderman’s office said.
Weber met with an undercover investigators in April 2015 at the Nassau County jail where he described Himonitis — also an inmate at the jail — as an Army Ranger veteran with a connection in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, who had access to AR-10 machine guns for $5,000 each, the complaint said. Investigators later learned Himonitis was a deserter from the Navy.
Investigators said not long after after his release from jail in May 2015, Himonitis sold seven weapons to an undercover officer for $12,000 in cash — and an agreement that he would receive an additional $14,600 in installments. The weapons had no serial numbers.