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US-Iranian citizen who tried to buy missiles for Iran gets 25 years in prison

U.S.-Iranian citizen Reza Olangian is pictured after being arrested in Estonia in October 2012 in this U.S. DEA handout photo obtained by Reuters; November 23, 2016. (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration/Handout via REUTERS)
March 16, 2018

Reza Olangian, a dual citizen of Iran and the United States, was sentenced on Wednesday to 25 years in prison after he was found guilty of trying to purchase military weapons and other supplies, which he ultimately hoped to sell to the government of Iran.

Reuters reported that the man attempted to acquire a large number of surface-to-air missiles and aircraft components in 2012 while in eastern Europe, which in turn violated United States sanctions imposed on Iran.

Prosecutors said the man negotiated a deal that included 10 missiles and dozens of aircraft parts.

It was also reported that Olangian stated in a video conference with the DEA informant that he ultimately wanted to acquire at least 200 missiles. Prosecutors say he aimed to make a substantial profit selling the weapons.

Olangian received the minimum sentence allowed under federal law for his actions, much to the disappointment of some prosecutors. They had asked the judge for the possibility of issuing a sentence that was longer than the minimum. However, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan did not feel that a longer sentence was necessary,

“I think Judge Preska saw that 25 years is an extraordinarily long time and that Mr. Olangian did not rise to the level of something as egregious as that,” Gregory Morvillo, Olangian’s lawyer, said after the sentencing. At 57, Olangian will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

Born in Iran, Olangian came to the United States as a student in 1979. He acquired his U.S. citizenship in 1999, but would eventually move back to Iran in 2004, according to court filings.

He was arrested in Estonia in October 2012 and extradited back to the United States following a sting operation conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The DEA conducted the sting operation in Ukraine, where Olangian met with an informant posing as a Russian weapons broker. Olangian was trying to arrange the purchase of surface-to-air missiles and various military aircraft components that he ultimately planned to sell to Iran.

Olangian was convicted by a jury in November 2016 of crimes that included conspiring to acquire and transfer anti-aircraft missiles.

His lawyers have stated in court filings that Olangian intends on appealing his conviction. During his trial, his lawyers attempted to paint a different picture of Olangian. They stated that he was actually an opponent of the government of Iran, and that his efforts to broker weapons sales were instead meant to be his own sting operation to expose Iran’s efforts to evade U.S. sanctions.