US Attorney – Arms Trafficker Gets 22 Years Jail For Plot To Smuggle Missiles, Grenades and Other Weapons

LAWFUEL.COM – Legal Newswire – LEV L. DASSIN, the Acting United States Attorney for
the Southern District of New York, announced that ARTUR
SOLOMONYAN, 30, the leader of an international arms trafficking
operation, was sentenced today to 22 years in prison for plotting
to smuggle shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (“SAMs”),
rocket-propelled grenades (“RPGs”), anti-tank guided missiles,
and other high-powered military weapons into the United States
for sale. United States District Judge RICHARD J. HOLWELL
imposed the sentence today in Manhattan federal court.
SOLOMONYAN, and his co-defendants CHRISTIAAN SPIES and
IOSEB KHARABADZE, were found guilty on July 24, 2007 following a
one-month jury trial, of conspiring to smuggle SAMs, RPGs,
machine guns, and other high-powered weapons from Eastern Europe
into the United States. The jury also found SOLOMONYAN and SPIES
guilty of illegally trafficking in machine guns and other assault
weapons.

According to the evidence at trial:
From December 2003 to March 15, 2005, SOLOMONYAN,
SPIES, and KHARABADZE brokered a deal to import RPGs, SAMs, antitank
missile systems, and other military weapons from Eastern
Europe into the United States, for sale to a confidential
informant (“CI”) posing as an arms trafficker. SOLOMONYAN and
SPIES met with the CI in New York City on several occasions to
discuss the details of their weapons deal, including the
specifications and prices of various weapons that the defendants
could ship. In June 2004, at a meeting in New York City,
SOLOMONYAN and SPIES provided the CI with a price list of weapons
obtained from KHARABADZE that day — a list that included RPGs,
Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, AK-47s, and Claymore mines. In
February 2005, SOLOMONYAN and SPIES provided the CI with digital
photographs of military weapons in Armenia that they proposed to
import into the United States for sale to the CI. These
photographs, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”)
determined were taken in late February 2005, included such
weapons as: surface-to-air heat seeking anti-aircraft missiles,
an anti-tank guided missile and launcher, a mortar launcher,
recoilless anti-tank guns, and fully automatic AK-74 and AK-47
assault rifles.

The FBI arrested SOLOMONYAN, SPIES, and KHARABADZE
before any of them could travel outside of the United States to
obtain these weapons.

In addition, while SOLOMONYAN and SPIES were arranging
to import the military weapons from Eastern Europe, they sold to
the CI and delivered one machine gun and seven assault weapons.
The assault weapons included a Norinco Model NHM91 semi-automatic
assault rifle, an Israel Military Industries Model A Uzi, an
Interdynamic Model KG-9 or “TEC-9” semi-automatic assault pistol,
a Norinco MAC-90 Sporter semi-automatic assault rifle, three AK-
47s, and two conversion kits intended to convert AK-47s into
fully-automatic machine guns.

Judge HOLWELL has previously sentenced 15 other related
defendants convicted of firearms trafficking offenses in
connection with this investigation, including DMITRIY VOROBEYCHIK
(33 months), NIKOLAI NADIRASHVILI (41 months) and LEVAN CHVELIDZE
(34 months), who were convicted at trial in July 2007 along with
SOLOMONYAN, SPIES, and KHARABADZE. KHARABADZE is scheduled to be
sentenced on March 11, 2009, at 2:30 p.m. SPIES is scheduled to
be sentenced on March 18, 2009, at 2 p.m.

Mr. DASSIN praised the work of the FBI and the New York
City Police Department in their handling of this investigation.
Mr. DASSIN also expressed his thanks to the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Department of Homeland
Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their
assistance.

Assistant United States Attorneys MARC P. BERGER and
DAVID B. MASSEY are in charge of the prosecution.
09-052 ###

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