Ronkonkoma sporting goods store owner pleads not guilty to 69-count weapons indictment
The owner of a sporting goods store in Ronkonkoma is accused of selling and possessing illegal weapons.
Chester Pergan, the owner of Chester's Hunting and Fishing store, pleaded not guilty to a 69-count indictment Thursday in a Riverhead courtroom. Charges against Pergan include 29 counts of criminal possession of a firearm and criminal sale of a firearm.
Pergan's attorney Anthony LaPinta says Pergan, 53, has operated the store for 18 years and had a federal license to do so.
"They are not some back-alley weapons that were made illegally or on the black market by any means," says LaPinta. "It was a federally licensed operation."
Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini says a military-grade .50-caliber sniper rifle and an AK-47 were among the 116 assault rifles seized from Pergan's store.
"The amount of ammunition and weapons seized was alarming," says Sini.
Sini says Pergan surrendered his state license in 2015 because of bad bookkeeping allegations. Sini says even if Pergan had that license he's still only permitted to sell some of those weapons to members of law enforcement.
"You cannot sell a .50-caliber sniper rifle that can put a hole in a tank to an ordinary citizen," says Sini.
Prosecutors say Pergan also illegally sold a weapon to John Ligurgo, who ended up using that weapon to kill his 2-year-old son and then himself in 2018.
Pergan is being held on $400,000 bail.