Allegedly selling assault weapons
Trap & Skeet concessionaire busted on charges for Nassau store
THE LONG ISLAND ADVANCE
February 24, 2011

By LINDA LEUZZI

On this past blustery Sunday afternoon, Mark Wroobel, the concessionaire who runs Southaven County Park Trap and Skeet range in Yaphank was sitting behind the cash register of his pro shop talking with customers.

“We’re under the authority of our attorneys not to talk to media,” Wroobel said politely to the Long Island Advance, referring inquiries to the county. A line of shotguns were displayed on a far wall.  “We sell just shotguns,” he added.  “We’re not really worried. We’re not trying to hide anything.”

But the arrest of nine gun shop owners in Nassau County last week that included Wroobel, 40, who also owns Hunter Sports in Massapequa, for allegedly selling illegal assault weapons after a 10-month probe is worrisome to County Legislator Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley) and Councilwoman Connie Kepert as well as local residents. Wroobel and his business, Hunter Sports, are both charged with two counts of Manufacture, Transport, Disposition, Defacement of Weapons and Dangerous Instruments and Appliances, both felonies and two misdemeanor violations of Firearms Licensing provisions.

“It’s illegal to sell an assault rifle in New York to anyone who’s not a police officer, peace officer or duly appointed military personnel,” said Chris Munzing, a spokesperson from Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s office.  “They were selling them to civilians.  Undercover officers were able to purchase weapons from his store.”

Munzing said undercover police purchased 16 assault weapons from the gun shops; two came from Wroobel’s shop, Hunter Sports. “He was released on his own recognizance,” Munzing said.  “There was no bail.” Wroobel was due in court this Friday, Feb. 25 in Mineola.  Michael Villeck, an attorney with Sanders, Sanders, Block, Woycik, Viner & Grossman in Mineola is representing him.  According to Det. Lt. Kevin Smith, commanding officer of the Nassau County Police Department’s public information.  Wroobel’s pistol license was suspended.

“But his dealership was not,” he said.  Browning and representatives from Kepert’s office, along with local residents gathered on Monday by the Trap & Skeet site, requesting County Executive Steve Levy and Parks Commissioner Joseph Montuori to close the range pending the investigation and to also call for an investigation into whether Suffolk County property was involved in any of the crimes. “I kind of feel his actions clearly show he’s not the most ethical person,” Browning said. “We should investigate if anything illegal happened at the Trap and Skeet. He leases guns there and I want to make sure nothing illegal was done on Suffolk County property.”

Wroobel’s attorney voiced a different response. “There is very little I can say right now,” said Wroobel’s attorney Michael Villeck. “He’s already pled not guilty.  There have been no criminal allegations at all at the range out at Yaphank. It’s upsetting that press conference had to happen to try to blemish Mr. Wroobel’s name. We have all the confidence that the Nassau County District Attorney’s will do a proper investigation. Then the truth will come out.”

Browning is also asking for a full analysis of revenues and expenditures at the range since it reopened. “We received some information from county executive’s office that we’ve only received about $42,000 a year from the park. The initial startup money was about $400,000 and the county put in that money for the vendor to get it up and running. You’re talking 10 years to generate any kind of revenue from that. And we’ve had legal fees because we’ve been taken to court by the Town of Brookhaven and Pine Barrens Commission.” The continuing saga regarding the legal fees include the construction of a new deck and ramp as well as the installation of 1,200 feet of fencing and the installation of a 17-foottall noise barrier wooden wall on the sporting clay course conducted without the review or permission of the Pine Barrens Commission. The basic issue is:

Can the town enforce its noise ordinance?  The town’s rebuttal, once the noise propels onto town property– it can.  Browning also pointed out, the surrounding residents have had their homes reassessed, which means less taxes to the county, the town and the school district.

Browning said Wroobel has been receiving an excess of $500,000 in revenue.  “What we’ve received is $239,000 [in investment] that he’s spent since 2005,” she said. “Here’s a man making a sizeable amount of money. He has a gun shop in Massapequa. These days with terrorists, gangs and drug people, who is he selling weapons to?” Browning said she’s reached out to Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota. “I am waiting for a phone call back. It’s very clear in the contract that the county executive and the parks commissioner can rescind the contract. And the other issue is, we’re not making money from the nursing home but we’re continuing with a range, which nonresidents use. In this economy, it’s not the right thing to do.”

In a meeting with several homeowners including Johan McConnell last Sunday, McConnell pointed out the legal terms of Wroobel’s license agreement. In Law No.  25-PK-005 for the Trap & Skeet Shooting Range/Snack Bar Concession, under Default/Termination for Cause, it states “The County/Licensor may terminate this license based on the following events: A failure to comply with federal, State or local laws, rules, regulations, or County/ Licensor policies or directives, or uses of the Licensed Premises or facilities by the Licensee for any illegal conduct or purpose. In such event, the County/ Licensor may immediately terminate this agreement by written notice at the sole discretion of the Commissioner.” “Is there a violation of the contract, that’s the biggest issue,” said Chris Broszeit.

What was the county’s response? “Considering the serious nature of these allegations, we have asked the Suffolk Parks Commissioner and county attorney to investigate,” said county executive spokesperson Mark Smith.