The case against a Naples military store owner and two employees will proceed to trial.
U.S. District Judge Douglas M. Frazier on Thursday set Oct. 1 as the trial date for Homer Helter, 68, who owns Helter's Antique and Military Mall, 5510 Shirley Street, and his employees, Dennis Jarstad, 59, and James Kassel, 61. Each faces 11 counts of unlawfully dealing guns and ammunition, and if convicted, face a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
All three entered not guilty pleas to all charges.
The trio appeared in a Fort Myers courtroom, where federal prosecutors convinced Frazier that enough probable cause exists for the case against them to proceed.
Helter has been in the business of selling antiques since 1998 and has the largest collection of military items and World War II collectibles in Florida, but federal prosecutors say evidence obtained from an undercover investigation reveals that more than just memorabilia was being sold from the store.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jesus Casas charged that Helter and two employees, Dennis Jarstad and James Kassel, knowingly peddled guns from a backroom of the store, and that Jarstad sold guns or ammunition on three occasions to people with criminal records.
None of the defense attorney presented evidence during the hearing.
Helter's attorney, Donald Day, attorney Landon Miller for Kassel and attorney Dan Cavanaugh, representing Jarstad, declined to discuss the case.
Casas also declined comment.
According to a 27-page federal affidavit, Helter offered to sell an uncover agent an AR-15 rifle with a bump stock, which makes it shoot fully automatic, and a Ruger Mini-14 rifle out of the safe in his office in December.
The document also says Jarstad and Kassel each worked part-time for Helter in the military memorabilia and firearms section of the store, and that all three men engaged in illegal sales of various handguns and rifles from Aug. 11, 2011, to Aug. 3, 2012.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives warned Helter twice – in 2008 and again in 2009 – that he had to have a license to sell firearms, according to a sworn statement by a federal agent.
In the last year, ATF agents made 11 undercover visits to the store, and purchased thousands of dollars in ammunition and weapons, including nine handguns and one rifle, according to the affidavit.