Two men have been charged with smuggling military technology to Iran after they reportedly tried to purchase and sell aircraft and other components in an illegal endeavor.
The two men are part of a larger case which features five defendants which were charged Wednesday in a federal indictment featuring nine accusation counts.
The men are accused of trying to purchase and illegally sell American military technology, including aircraft and their parts and O-rings to Iran.
The United States Iran embargo only allows for a very small, limited number of accepted goods, services, and technology to be exported to the latter country.
Two of the men to be arrested are American nationals based in California. Vache Nayirian and Zavik Zargarian are amongst the five others investigated by the inquiry. The men were taken into custody on Wednesday through the joint efforts of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Two Iranian nationals who are thought to be in Iran, Hormoz Nowrouz and Hanri Terminassian are also amongst those who face conviction, as well as ZNC Engineering, the company owned by Zargarian and based in Glendale.
The smuggling operation was uncovered after a careful undercover mission and is believed to have been initiated by Terminassian as he contacted Zargarian.
The latter is believed to have posed as a negotiator in the technology deals targeted by Terminassian, just as he acted as an intermediary when dealing with an undercover agent posing as a parts dealer.
The operation is thought to have been a joint effort between the men as Nowrouz was the parts beneficiary and also the funds’ owner, with Terminassian acting as an intermediary between him and Nayirian and Zargarian, the latter also being the supplier.
Zargarian reportedly used his company, ZNC Engineering, in order to also acquired O-rings, which were then exported to Iran. By first passing through Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, from where they were redirected to their intended final location.
The product was shipped under falsely claimed documents and were also undervalued so as to escape further CBP investigations. Over the course of the operation, over 70,000 such rings are believed to have been exported.
The O-rings have a varied area of military usage as they can be included anywhere from the landing gear to the hydraulic system of an aircraft.
The two men charged with smuggling military technology were caught as they were trying to negotiate the purchase of $3 million worth of aircraft parts, including jet fighter models F-14 to F-18.
As the trade of all such products is illicit, the men first faced the federal court on Wednesday afternoon. After both pleaded as being non-guilty, the men were released on bond and will face the first trial hearing on December 20.
If they are found guilty of smuggling military technology to Iran, the men face time in a federal prison of between 95 to 115 years, and possible fines of between $3.7 to $4.7 million.
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