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CA man tried to smuggle rifle scopes and tactical gear into Syria

A paratrooper assigned to 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, looks down the scope of his weapon during a joint forcible entry exercise at Malemute Drop Zone on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 23, 2016. (Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez/U.S. Air Force)
December 22, 2018

A California man was sentenced yesterday to almost four years in federal prison for violating a sanction put on Syria by the U.S., the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

Syrian native Rasheed Al Jijakli, 57, was sentenced to 46 months in prison by U.S. District Judge James V. Selna, according to the Justice Department.

In August, Jijakli entered into a plea agreement and admitted that he colluded with others to send weapons and accessories to rebels in Syria from the U.S., including “43 laser boresighters, 85-day rifle scopes, 30 night-vision rifle scopes, tactical flashlights, a digital monocular, five radios, and one bulletproof vest,” according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The tactical gear was purchased by Jijakli over a month-long period in 2012. He then boarded a plane with the gear in L.A. with the intent to travel to Istanbul, Turkey where he would provide it to “Syrian rebels training in Turkey and fighting in Syria.”

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Some of the gear was also provided to Ahrar Al-Sham, a militant group of whom his co-conspirator was a member. “Jijakli also provided the goods to other armed Syrian insurgent groups in Syria and Turkey,” the DOJ statement said.

The tactical gear was funded by direct orders from Jijakli, to his co-parts, to pull out $17,000 from the company, Palmyra Corporation, where Jijakli was employed as chief executive officer.

Prosecutors said at the sentencing the tactical gear that Jijakli took to Syria were “instruments of death,” and Judge Selna agreed.

Jijakli’s arrest followed an investigation directed by the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement, and IRS Criminal Investigation.

His case isn’t the only one involving the attempted exportation of weapons and related items to a sanctioned foreign country.

On Apr. 26, 2017, 44-year-old Konstantin Chekhovskoi was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for trying to take $100,000 worth of firearms and equipment, “including bullets, rifle magazines, triggers, stocks, muzzle brakes and scopes” to Sweden, according to the DOJ.

Chekhovskoi was sentenced on Mar. 22, 2018 to serve 18 months in federal prison plus $100,000 in restitution by U.S. District Judge Sara L. Ellis after pleading guilty to trying to export the weapons.

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Also in March, Alireza Jalali, 39, received a 15-month prison sentence after pleading guilty in Nov. 2017 for his role in collaborating a conspiracy to defraud the United States, according to a DOJ statement.

Assistant Attorney General Demers said, “Jalali and his co-conspirators illegally sent sensitive military-use technology to Iran, where it could fall into the hands of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in clear violation of U.S. law. This is a threat to the national security of the United States and our allies, and we will aggressively prosecute those who brazenly violate our export control laws.”

In June, 32-year-old Vladimir Nevidomy of Florida was sentenced to serve 26 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release for trying to illegally send high-grade military devices to Russia, according to the DOJ.

Court documents suggested that Nevidomy exported night vision rifle scopes, thermal monoculars, and ammunition primers to Russia by concealing them in household goods shipments handled by a private Russian postal service that ran in South Florida.