Two American suppliers, including an aircraft maintenance worker from Perry, have pleaded guilty to federal charges that they provided fighter jet and attack helicopter parts to Iran.
Michael Edward Todd, 31, president of The Parts Guys, a warehouse at Middle Georgia Regional Airport, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court last month to conspiring to illegally export the parts. He is scheduled for sentencing in August.
A second man, Hamid Hank Seifi, pleaded guilty to that charge and to violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Seifi was sentenced to 56 months in prison Wednesday, followed by three years of supervised release. He also must pay a $12,500 fine and forfeit $153,950, according to the U.S. Attorneys Office.
Seifi and his Illinois-based company, Galaxy Aviation Services, ordered and purchased parts from Todd and The Parts Guys on behalf of Hassan and Reza Seifi and their company, Tehran, Iran-based Sabanican Co.
The parts were exported to Iran through the French company Aerotechnic and its president, Philippe Sanchez, and a sales manager, Luc Teuly, authorities said.
Although U.S. Attorney Michael Moore wouldnt provide an exact amount exported to Iran, he said the parts shipped between the companies were worth millions of dollars.
The parts ranged from bolts and screws to parts for aircraft weaponry, Moore said at a news conference Thursday morning announcing the unsealing of an indictment in the case.
The parts exported to Iran were for the Bell AH-1 attack helicopter, the UH-1 Huey attack helicopter and F-4 and F-5 fighter jets.
Iran needs the parts because the aircraft are old, Moore said.
The U.S. gave the aircraft to Iran before the countrys revolution in 1979.
There is a healthy appetite in Iran for U.S. military technology, Moore said. Unfortunately, Iran found a willing supplier.
French nationals Sanchez and Teuly and the Seifis, Iranian nationals, also were indicted, and they remain fugitives, according to the U.S. Attorneys Office.
Moore said Hamid Seifi, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen, is Reza Seifis uncle and Hassan Seifis brother.
United Arab Emirates-based Aletra General Trading and Syed Amir Ahmed Najfi, an Iranian national and purchaser, also were indicted in the case. Najfi has not been taken into custody.
A message left for Hamid Seifis attorney was not returned Thursday. Todds attorney declined to comment.
Cut off the trunk
The Parts Guys was first registered with the Georgia Secretary of States Office in September 2008 and was dissolved in September 2010, according to state records.
The Parts Guys and Seifis company, Galaxy Aviation, also were indicted in the case. The Parts Guys has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act.
Galaxy Aviation, now defunct, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act and to violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
Moore said Seifi worked as both an individual supplier and as a middle man connecting Todd to other parts of the network.
Todd allegedly maintained a warehouse at Middle Georgia Municipal Airport. The defendants did not obtain the required U.S. export licenses, prosecutors said.
Information about the parts supply network was uncovered as early as 2009 and during another investigation, Moore said.
He said it was important for a thorough investigation of the case before charges were presented to a grand jury. The case was a joint effort including investigations by the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Commerce Department.
We have to cut off more than a branch of this illegal supply tree, Moore said. Weve cut off the trunk.
It was important for us to get the whole thing.
Heres what the indictment alleges:
The conspiracy to export U.S. military aircraft parts has been traced back to November 2008 and continued through January 2010.
A series of e-mails between Todd and Najfi document communication over the exportation of parts for a Bell AH-1 helicopter. In the e-mails, Todd told Najfi about new protocols for shipping aircraft products internationally, and he said he needed a special license from the U.S. government to export some of the items Najfi had requested.
To get the licenses, he said, he would need to provide information about the ultimate end-user.
Najfi responded to Todd that it was hard for him to reveal his clients information. He wrote, As you know they are not the end user at all, but a company who is selling items to end users.
In subsequent e-mails, Najfi requested a price quote for parts, and Todd requested assurance that Najfi would provide end user information if Todd was ever audited.
Invoices recording sales were attached to e-mails. Todds bank account reflected multiple money transfers from Aletra General Trading.
He also received an e-mail from Federal Express confirming the filing of a shippers export declaration on March 10, 2009. The shipment was described as aviation parts and falsely listed the items as nonmilitary aircraft parts, that the end-user was Aletra and that no license was required.
Federal Express documents show the shipment arrived in Dubai on April 1, 2009.
Another series of e-mails documents the purchase of military aircraft engines and other parts from Todd using Hamid Seifi as a middle man to arrange for a shipment to France-based Aerotechnic. The parts were then sold by Aerotechnic to Sabanican in Tehran, Iran. Hamid Seifis company received a commission on the sale.
Moore said authorities have gathered additional intelligence, and more indictments are expected, but he wouldnt comment further about the investigation.
A conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Violations of the Arms Export Control Act and International Emergency Economic Powers Act each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.