By Associated Press - Monday, September 5, 2011

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) — The federal government is planning to return 130 antique guns seized from a St. Johnsbury gun dealer who once owned a firearm that later was used in a Boston killing.

But federal prosecutors say the remaining 370 weapons taken from the home of Phillip Ciotti on Aug. 3, including at least one short-barreled shotgun and one short-barreled rifle, are being “retained as evidence of federal criminal violations.”

The antiques are being returned to Mr. Ciotti because they do not meet the federal government’s definition of a firearm.

Mr. Ciotti, an investigator with the Vermont Board of Medical Practice, and Richard Bernholz, a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are under investigation for their sales of guns at gun shows. On the same day the guns were seized from Mr. Ciotti’s home, another 150 were seized from Mr. Bernholz’s Franklin home.

No charges have been filed against Mr. Ciotti or Mr. Bernholz.

A court affidavit filed by an ATF agent says Mr. Ciotti and Mr. Bernholz jointly engaged in selling firearms at gun shows even though only Mr Ciotti has a federal firearms license allowing him to do that.

The affidavit said Mr. Ciotti bought the gun used in the Boston killing at a Waterbury gun shop on behalf of the Board of Medical Practice, but the state attorney general’s office could not provide a reason why he would need to buy one on behalf of his office.

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