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Gun Shop Owner, Clerk Sentenced

December 20, 2000

CHICAGO (AP) _ A gun shop owner was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison Wednesday in a crackdown on dealers who arm gangs. A sales clerk received a 15 months behind bars.

Chicago police officers testified they bought 25 guns from the B&H gun shop in Oak Lawn while posing as gang members.

The case was part of federal Operation Surefire, which targets gun dealers who try to thwart the background-check system designed to keep convicted criminals from obtaining guns.

Last year, 174 guns recovered from crimes in Chicago were traced to B&H, making it one of the top suppliers of Chicago gangs.

Three people have been convicted in the operation, including B&H co-owner Brian Inglese, 32, and clerk Earl F. Baumhardt, 62. Two others have been acquitted.

The two men were found guilty of selling guns to straw purchasers _ those who can buy guns legally but do so merely to pass them along to someone who cannot. Convicted felons may not buy guns.

Baumhardt was also fined $10,000, and the company that owned the now-closed shop, B&H Sports Ltd., was fined $25,000, which prosecutors said would effectively put it out of business.

Defense attorneys had suggested at the trial that police had unfairly targeted B&H.

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