Two men from the Los Angeles area have been charged with attempting to smuggle military plane parts to Iran, the Justice Department announced on Friday.
Zavik Zargarian and Vache Nayirian were arrested on Wednesday morning over their suspected roles in “a scheme to smuggle millions of dollars’ worth of military aircraft parts and other potential defense items to Iran in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR),” the department said in a statement.
Among the items that the two attempted to ship to Iran were fluorocarbon rubber O-rings, which “have a variety of possible military applications, including use in aircraft hydraulic systems and landing gear.”
The indictment also names ZNC Engineering, a company owned by Zargarian, as well as two Iranian nationals — Hanri Terminassian and Hormoz Nowrouz — who are both believed to be in Iran.
Terminassian is said to have contacted Zargarian from Iran to ask for help in acquiring military aircraft parts from US-based suppliers, including items used in F-14, F-15, F-16, and F-18 fighter jets. Zargarian subsequently negotiated prices from an undercover Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agent, after which Terminassian traveled to the United States to discuss particulars of the deal with both Zargarian and the undercover HSI agent, according to the indictment. The pair attempted to purchase between 10 and 30 units of each part, for a total cost of more than $3.6 million.
Zargarian and Nayirian are also accused of conspiring with Terminassian and Nowrouz to smuggle more than 7,000 O-rings to Iran. Zargarian purchased the O-rings with money transferred by Terminassian and Nayirian and shipped them to Iran via Gulf nations. Zargarian falsified the shipping forms in order to avoid detection, claiming that the packages were headed to nations other than Iran and substantially undervaluing the price of their contents in order to avoid closer inspection.
According to guidelines, Zargarian could be sentenced to 115 years in federal prison and a $4,770,000 fine. Nayirian could be imprisoned for up to 95 years and face a fine of $3,770,000.
“Our commitment to prosecuting individuals who engage in the unlawful proliferation and export of items with military applications remains steadfast,” said Mary B. McCord, acting assistant attorney general for national security. “The actions announced today are part of our ongoing effort to enforce export laws that continue to play a critical role in maintaining and protecting US national security.”
“The crimes charged in this indictment are very serious threats to our national security,” said Eileen M. Decker, US attorney for the Central District of California. “As a nation it is vital that we protect our military technology and prevent it from getting into the hands of other countries without proper authorization.”