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Nassau DA: Gun shops sold illegal weapons

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announces the

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announces the arrests of four Nassau gun shop owners. (Feb. 17, 2011) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nine men, including four gun shop owners, have been charged with selling illegal assault weapons to undercover investigators, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced Thursday.

One gun shop owner, Martin Tretola, 55, of Bellmore, was captured on undercover video demonstrating how to alter a rifle - removing a pin to make the fixed stock collapsible - so it became an illegal assault rifle, prosecutors said. The change makes the weapon easier to conceal and potentially more dangerous.

The suspects were "making a practice of putting profits before the safety of our citizens and flooding our streets with dangerous assault weapons," Rice said.

Another gun shop owner, Michael Marinello, 41, of East Meadow, is a retired NYPD officer, prosecutors said. He couldn't be reached Thursday.

Charles Horn, an attorney representing Martin Tretola and his son Thomas, who is also charged, denied his clients were dealing in illegal weapons and said, "At the end of the day, my clients will be vindicated and there will be a black and white ruling from the court that my clients broke no law. . . . These rifles were not assault weapons by any legal definition." Others charged could not be reached.

District attorney investigators and state police Wednesday executed search warrants.

More than 30 rifles were on display Thursday at a news conference in Mineola.On the undercover video, Tretola explains to a buyer that the weapon shown is "law enforcement only." He added, "You take that pin out, I'm telling you, you're in trouble with this gun."

"There is no place for a weapon like this on our streets here in Nassau County," Rice said, holding confiscated weapons she said were designed for military combat.Only police, peace officers and some military members can possess assault weapons under state law. Shop owners broke the law, Rice said, when they temporarily modified the weapons to appear legal. She said the alterations were "easily reversible, thereby making them full-fledged assault weapons."

Tretola owns T&T Tactical in New Hyde Park and T&T Gunnery in Seaford, and was charged with criminal sale of a firearm in the second degree, a class B felony, and a misdemeanor charge of firearms licensing provisions. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The gun shop owners' businesses also face felony charges, prosecutors said. An employee of T&T Tactical referred calls to an attorney, who couldn't be reached.

Four Tretola employees face felony charges: Thomas Tretola, 24, of Bellmore; Stuart Sansevino, 59, of North Babylon; Hank Greenberg, 32, of Oceanside; and Morgan Owens, 22, of West Islip. Others facing felony charges include: Mark Wroobel, 40, of Smithtown; his business, Hunter Sports in Massapequa; Andrew Chernoff, 50, of Malverne, owner of Coliseum Gun Traders in Uniondale; Carmine Rotondo, 68, of Garden City, an employee of Coliseum Gun Traders; Michael Marinello, 41, of East Meadow, owner of South Shore Sportsman in Merrick.

With Bill Mason

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