Skip to comments.Arms Network Is Broken Up, Officials Say (you mean they're NOT buying weapons at GUN SHOWS?)
Posted on 03/16/2005 4:31:48 AM PST by DocH
Law enforcement authorities have broken up a network of international arms smugglers who sold black-market assault rifles in the United States and were plotting to import military weapons - including anti-aircraft missiles and antitank guns - from Eastern Europe, federal and New York City officials announced yesterday.
The arms dealers sold the weapons to a confidential informer working with the F.B.I. who told them he was buying the arms for Al Qaeda, said David N. Kelley, the United States attorney in Manhattan, at a news conference. Mr. Kelley said the dealers were not associated with any terrorist organization but were selling the weapons to make money.
The officials charged that the arms ring was led by Artur Solomonyan, an Armenian, and Christiaan Dewet Spies, a South African, who have been living illegally in New York. In cellphone conversations secretly recorded by the F.B.I., the men said they intended to buy the more sophisticated weapons primarily from the Russian military but also from sellers linked to the armed forces in Ukraine and Georgia, Mr. Kelley said.
Although no terrorists were directly involved, the officials said the case represented a sobering warning that there were dealers in the illegal international arms market capable of importing battlefield weapons to the United States and ready to sell them to terrorists.
"These defendants may not have been terrorists themselves, but they've shown a transparent willingness to do anything with anybody so long as it generates income for their organization," said Andrew Arena, a special agent in charge of the Criminal Division of the F.B.I. in New York.
Mr. Kelley unsealed a federal criminal complaint for weapons trafficking yesterday against 18 people he said participated in the arms network. The two accused ringleaders and 15 other defendants were arrested by the F.B.I. and the local police Monday night and yesterday morning in roundups in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami, the officials said. The remaining defendant, identified as Armand Abramian, 27, was being sought in California.
Mr. Solomonyan, 26, protested that he was not guilty as he was escorted yesterday into Federal District Court in Manhattan. "I was trapped in this thing," he said. "I don't know what's going on." Also named in the complaint was his brother, Levon, 24.
The arrests came after a yearlong investigation in which the confidential informer secretly recorded hours of conversations with the defendants, and the F.B.I. taped more than 15,000 calls on seven telephones, officials said. During the year, they said, the arms ring sold the informer eight illegal weapons, mostly military assault rifles, including two AK-47's and an Israeli-made Uzi. The dealers delivered three of the guns in New York City, three in Los Angeles and two in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in transactions that were monitored by the F.B.I.
In recent weeks, the defendants made a $2.2 million deal to sell the informer more powerful, mainly Russian-made weapons, Mr. Kelley said. They gave the informer photographs of the weapons, which they said they were holding somewhere in Eastern Europe and were ready to import by ship to the United States.
The photos, which officials displayed yesterday, included images of two SA-7b Strella surface-to-air heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles and a Russian AT-4 Spigot antitank guided missile and launcher.
Early in their discussions, Artur Solomonyan told the informer he could obtain enriched uranium that could be "used in the subway," Mr. Kelley said. But he said the subject was "never followed up," and there was no evidence that the arms ring ever trafficked in nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction. "It never happened," Mr. Kelley said.
Mr. Spies, 33, told the informer that he had ties to the Russian mafia, the complaint says. But none of the defendants are Russian; they include people from Georgia, Italy and France, as well as several Americans. Mr. Kelley said that officials suspected they were buying arms from "rogue folks within Eastern European military circles" but that it was still not clear whether they were members of the military or black marketeers.
According to the complaint, the F.B.I. informer began meeting a year ago with Mr. Spies, whom he had known for several years, and Mr. Solomonyan. The informer, who does not speak Russian, had provided information to American authorities in a separate case three years ago, the officials said.
The first meeting between the informer and the two accused of leading the weapons ring took place in the sauna and then the hot tub at a day spa in Brooklyn, the complaint says.
Mr. Solomonyan told the informer that his contacts were former officials of the K.G.B., the Soviet intelligence service, the complaint says; he said he hoped to acquire weapons from military operations in Chechnya, where Russian forces have been fighting a separatist insurgency.
In one secretly recorded cellular phone conversation, Mr. Solomonyan said he had never made an arms deal before and worried that the informer, who he thought was an arms broker, would think he was too young, according to the complaint.
The arrests began Monday night, when Mr. Solomonyan and Mr. Spies went to a meeting with the informer in Manhattan, where they had been told he would give them false immigration green cards so they could leave the United States to pick up the promised weapons. Instead, they were met by F.B.I. and New York police agents.
Mr. Arena, the F.B.I. official, said the case showed that it was shortsighted to contend that that agency should focus exclusively on combating terrorism and turn its attention away from international organized crime.
The defendants' "knowledge of smuggling routes, their access to weapons and their facility with financial trickery are the things terrorists need to turn a deadly dream into deadly reality," he said.
And it's no surprise that MOST of the illegal arms are coming from eastern europe.
I remember back when the Chuckie Schumer (and other anti-gun maggots) beagn pushing the implausible, ridiculaous notion that terrorists are "shooping" the nations guns shows. Why spend $250 to $2500 for a SEMI-AUTO weapon at an American gun show, when you can get $50 ACTUAL FULLY-AUTOMATIC weapons, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank missiles, explosives, mortars, and just about anything else you can think of smuggled in at cut-rate prices? It was around that time that I remember hearing about a ship bound for Yassir Arafat with 55,000 TONS of armaments that was seized. Who knows how many weapons smuggled to terrorists worldwide, by both illegal weapons smugglers and rogue nations, have slipped through to them?
And Chuckie Schumer wants us to believe they are buying their weapons at our gun shows.
MY goodness, the pc police won't even allow the term ILLEGAL ALIENS to be used.
((( TM ping )))
SO LET ME SEE IF I UNDERSTAND THE FBI POSITION. THERE IS A BRIGHT LINE BETWEEN TERRORISTS AND ILLEGAL GUYS SELLING WEAPONS TO TERRORISTS.
this is scarey, looks like the FBI is up to it's old tricks. No big deal just some organized crime guys trying to buy weapons. Just like the no cells in the U.S. statement. apparently all of the hearings, commisssions and 9-11 haven't broke the cycle of blinders at the FBI.
The terrorists are probably laughing at the stupidity of this agents mind. He probably thinks he has stopped all of the activities like this.
Actually, based on the way the sentence is worded, this FBI agent wants to be allowed to go after BOTH the terrorists and their suppliers. It's someone else who is drawing the artificial line.
Oh they are just selling the anti tank and anti aircraft weapons that americans dont wanto to sell.We should give these guys guest worker visas and leave the borders pourous
Interesting you are doing the same thing. The terrorists and their "suppliers" are one and the same.
-The officials charged that the arms ring was led by Artur Solomonyan, an Armenian, and Christiaan Dewet Spies, a South African, who have been living illegally in New York.-
Hey, they're just doing the jobs Americans don't want to do...we should let them go, as long as they promise to show up for the immigration hearing. (OH - SARCASM!)