U.S. charges man with seeking to buy missiles for Iran

NEW YORK Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:23pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors brought criminal charges on Friday against a man they said had tried to acquire surface-to-air missiles that he planned to smuggle into Iran in a threat to U.S. national security.

Reza Olangian, a dual citizen of the United States and Iran, was charged with four counts, including trying to acquire and transfer anti-aircraft missiles, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and two conspiracy counts.

The defendant was arrested at an airport in Tallinn, Estonia, on October 10, 2012, and extradited to the United States on March 26, 2013, according to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York, who announced the charges.

"We are prepared to defend Mr. Olangian against the charges in the indictment," his lawyer Lee Ginsberg said in an email. Olangian remains in federal custody, Ginsberg added.

Prosecutors said Olangian, also known as Raymond Avancian, dealt over several months last year with an undercover official working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who he believed was a weapons and aircraft broker, to arrange for goods to be acquired and illegally sent to the Iranian government.

They said this followed a failed effort by Olangian in 2007 to obtain about 100 missiles for Iran.

Prosecutors said evidence against him included emails and recorded conversations in which he expressed interest in obtaining at least 200 missiles, as well as equipment such as Bell 412 helicopters.

According to the complaint, Olangian intended for the goods to enter Iran by land from Afghanistan or another neighboring country, and in an August 28, 2012, email to the undercover official provided initial payment details.

"I want to be at the exchange location for no MISHAPS," the email said, according to the complaint.

Olangian faces up to life in prison if convicted.

"After having been thwarted in his first attempt, Reza Olangian seized on a second opportunity to help arm the Iranian military with surface-to-air missiles and airline parts in violation of international trade sanctions and other laws," Bharara said in a statement. "Olangian struck out."

The case was assigned to Chief Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The case is U.S. v. Olangian, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Nos. 12-cr-00798 and 12-mag-02553.

(Editing by Howard Goller; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)