Iranian arms dealer pleads guilty in Delaware court

    An Iranian arms dealer will be sentenced in Delaware later this month after pleading guilty to charges related to his efforts to purchase weapons components for the government of Iran.

    After years of undercover investigations around the world, federal officials took the wraps off their case against Amir Hossein Ardebili Tuesday morning.  The Iranian national is accused of purchasing military grade electronic components to resell to the government of Iran.

    U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware David Weiss says the investigation started when Ardebili contacted agents at an undercover storefront in Philadelphia about purchasing electronic equipment in 2004.  Weiss says “Ardebili’s modus operandi was to obtain requirements from the government of Iran, and to fulfill these requirements by soliciting suppliers, mostly in the United States,  to provide him with the required parts.”  Over the next several years, Ardebili negotiated with undercover agents for the purchase of items including gyro chip sensors which can be used in aircraft and missile applications.  He also negotiated for the purchase of phase shifters which can be used in the operation of military target acquisition and missile guidance.

    In 2007, Ardebili transferred money to an unnamed Delaware financial institution and set up a meeting with undercover agents he believed were suppliers in an undisclosed central Asian country.  During that meeting, which was recorded on hidden surveillance cameras, Ardebili described the reasons he believed Iran was trying to acquire the military equipment, “They think the war is coming.”  He also clarified that he was purchasing weapons exclusively for Iran.

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    Ardebili was arrested after that meeting.  He was eventually extradited to the U.S. in January 2008.  He pled guilty in May 2008 to charges including smuggling, conspiracy, and money laundering.  He also pled guilty to multiple violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act which is designed to limit Iran’s ability to obtain high tech military equipment.

    The indictment and guilty plea were sealed because investigators were following up leads from Ardebili’s laptop computer, which contained details of his contact with other arms dealers.  Weiss wouldn’t describe what leads or investigations had been spawned from the information on that computer.

    Ardebili is scheduled to be sentenced by Delaware Judge Gregory Sleet on December 14.  In Delaware, he faces 9 counts, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.

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