Pentagon investigators thought they had discovered a major shipment of contraband when they intercepted parts for F-14 Tomcat warplanes headed to Iran, via FedEx, from Southern California. Under U.S. sanctions since its 1979 revolution, Tehran had been trying for years to illegally obtain spare parts for the fighters, which are used only in Iran.
But when agents descended on the Orange County, Calif., home of Reza Tabib, the 51-year-old former flight instructor at John Wayne Airport who sent the shipment, they were astonished to discover 13,000 other aircraft parts, worth an estimated $540,000, as well as a list of additional requests by an Iranian military officer and two airplane tickets for Tehran.
Caught red-handed, the Iranian-born American citizen pleaded guilty in May and was sentenced to two years in prison.
The Tabib tale is among a growing array of cases either under investigation or being prosecuted for illegally exporting sensitive military equipment, from missile parts and body armor to nuclear submarine technology, according to the Justice Department. Many are destined for groups or countries that target the United States and its allies, such as night-vision equipment destined for Iran and for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and components for improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, used against U.S. troops in Iraq. [complete article]