Reuters: A California man pleaded guilty in Chicago on Thursday to a felony charge of trying to illegally export missile parts to Iran, which the United States says is working to build nuclear weapons. By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO (Reuters) – A California man pleaded guilty in Chicago on Thursday to a felony charge of trying to illegally export missile parts to Iran, which the United States says is working to build nuclear weapons.
Andro Telemi, 42, faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He pleaded guilty without entering into an agreement with the government.
Telemi, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Iran, had been indicted in 2009 along with Iranian national Davoud Baniameri, 39, also of California. Baniameri pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to four years in prison.
The United States prohibits U.S. citizens from business dealings with the government of Iran, and has recently put in place new harsh penalties for banks that deal with the nation. Congressional negotiators are working on new sanctions aimed at further restricting Iran’s oil revenues.
Iran’s relations with the United States have been strained since an Islamic revolution toppled the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran in 1979 and Shi’ite Moslem militants seized the U.S. embassy and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
The United States says all options are the table to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Tehran says it is developing nuclear technology only for peaceful applications.
According to the Telemi’s plea and court records, Baniameri contacted Telemi sometime before August 17, 2009, to ask for help in buying and exporting 10 connector adapters for anti-tank guided missile systems to Iran via Dubai. Telemi agreed and they negotiated the purchase from an Illinois company, not knowing that it was controlled by law enforcement.
Telemi knew he needed a license from the U.S. government to export the adapters, and did not have one, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“Our national security is threatened when anyone attempts to illegally export restricted military components that could fall into the wrong hands,” Gary J. Hartwig, special agent-in-charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Chicago, said in a statement.
An attorney for Telemi was not immediately available for comment.
A third defendant, Syed Majid Mousavi, an Iranian citizen, remains a fugitive and is believed to be in Iran, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)