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Sini: Former owner of Ronkonkoma gun shop pleads guilty to weapons charge

A St. James gun store owner pleaded guilty Monday to illegally possessing firearms, agreeing to forfeit more than 100 assault weapons and more than 900 rounds of ammunition.

Chester Pergan, 54, the former owner of Chester’s Hunting & Fishing in Ronkonkoma, pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a firearm and faces up to one year in jail when he is sentenced Jan. 14.

Pergan was arrested in November 2018 and charged with 69 counts of illegal possession and sale of firearms, including a rifle he sold to John Ligurgo III, of Coram, who used it to kill his 2-year-old son and himself, police said. Pergan had faced up to 25 years in prison before pleading guilty Monday.

"Today’s conviction sends a clear message to gun store owners that if you don’t play by the rules, you will no longer be allowed to do business in Suffolk County," said District Attorney Timothy Sini. "As a convicted felon, this defendant is not only facing jail time, but is barred from possessing or selling firearms ever again."

Pergan illegally purchased weapons from out-of-state retailers or distributors, and unlawfully sold them to individuals who were not allowed to possess assault weapons in New York, authorities said.

The guilty plea requires Pergan to forfeit 116 assault weapons, 921 high-capacity magazines, 88 kung fu stars, 80 knives, and $20,000, prosecutors said. One of the assault rifles seized from Pergan's store had a magazine capable of firing 50 shots in seconds, while another had the power to shoot through a tank, officials said.

Anthony LaPinta, Pergan's attorney, said Sini "unfairly portrayed" Pergan to the media.

"Mr. Pergan was not a legal or moral accomplice in a child murder and did not sell weapons with high capacity magazines to promote mass shootings," he said. "To say that, or even imply it, is improper and unfair."

In 2018, the District Attorney’s Office, along with State and Suffolk Police launched an investigation into weapons sales at the store, which closed after Pergan's arrest.

Pergan maintained a Federal Firearms License, which permitted him to sell rifles and shotguns. However, he surrendered his New York State Dealer in Firearms License in 2015 because of record-keeping problems, making it illegal for him to purchase, possess or sell assault weapons. His federal license was revoked following his arrest.

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