5 Held in Alleged Plot to Smuggle Radar Parts
Five men--including at least two who are believed to be Navy enlisted personnel--have been arrested in connection with a ring in which sophisticated radar parts allegedly stolen from an aircraft carrier and a Naval supply depot here were smuggled to Iran, Justice Department sources said Saturday.
Three San Diegans were arrested Friday after a federal grand jury returned sealed indictments against them, and a businessman was arrested in New York Saturday, department sources here and in Washington said. A fifth man, an Iranian, was arrested in England.
The sources, who did not wish to be identified, said participants in the ring included civilian employees of the Navy and that the stolen parts included radar equipment for the F-14 jet fighter.
The investigation of the smuggling ring grew out of a routine check made by federal authorities, who made extensive use of court-ordered wiretaps to infiltrate early enough to plant “bogus” equipment in the illegal shipments, one department source said.
“As far as we know, nothing useful really reached Iran,” said the source in Washington.
Thefts of the radar equipment were made from an aircraft carrier believed to be the Kitty Hawk, which is based at the North Island Naval Air Station, and the San Diego-based Naval supply depot, the source said.
It could not be learned when the alleged smuggling operation began or precisely how many participants were in the ring. Federal authorities, however, said they do not believe the network was extensive.
The three San Diego men will be arraigned Monday, when indictments against them probably will be unsealed, said a source with the U.S. attorney’s office here. Two of these men are believed to be Navy enlisted personnel.
The investigation into the smuggling ring was conducted by the U.S. attorney’s San Diego office, the Naval Investigative Service, U.S. Customs and the FBI.
The United States embargoed all sales of military equipment to Iran when the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took over six years ago.