A New York man charged by federal officials with involvement in a ring that sold stolen aircraft parts to Iran was indicted Wednesday in a scheme authorities said provided the Iranians with sophisticated military equipment over a period of years.
Edgardo Pangilinan Agustin, 45, was named in the seven-page indictment released in San Diego on Wednesday. According to the indictment, Agustin, who lives in Jamaica, N.Y., also has residences in the Philippines and Virginia Beach, Va. Agustin was arrested in New York on Friday, where he is being held without bail.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Steve Crandall said that a removal hearing has been scheduled for next week in Brooklyn for Agustin, where federal prosecutors will ask for his extradition to San Diego. His brother, Franklin Pangilinan Agustin, 47, was identified in a complaint by the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego as the head of a San Diego-based smuggling ring that sold the stolen parts to the Iranian government through an Iranian national living in England.
In addition to Edgardo Agustin's arrest in New York, authorities arrested four people in San Diego Friday, including Franklin Agustin; his wife, Julie, 45; Pedro Manansala Quito, 60, and Primitivo Baluyat Cayabyab, 36. Cayabyab was identified as an aviation storekeeper on the Kitty Hawk, and Quito as a civilian warehouse worker assigned to the Fleet Avionics Logistics Support Center in San Diego.
Those arrested Friday in San Diego were named in a complaint drawn by federal prosecutors last week. Quintin Villanueva, regional commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, said the investigation is continuing.
A source familiar with the investigation said that more arrests are expected in the case. The source said that U.S. officials were forced to make the arrests sooner than planned because British customs officers may have tipped off other ring members when they arrested Saeid Asefi Inanlou on Thursday. Saeid was identified by U.S. officials as the Iranian national in England who forwarded the stolen parts to Iran.
"Customs in the U.K. forced our hand. They arrested the Iranian without consulting us and we were forced to act. If we had continued our investigation a little bit longer before making any arrests, I'm sure we could've nailed more of them. But you can be sure that we'll be making more arrests," said the source.
The Times also learned that the arrests were made at a time when U.S. Customs agents had succeeded in infiltrating the ring.
According to the indictment, between February, 1983, and this month, Edgardo Agustin conspired with other ring members to illegally ship F-14 combat aircraft equipment to Iran. Agustin has been charged with selling sophisticated combat weaponry like inertial navigation units and guiding mechanisms for the Phoenix air-to-air missile.
Federal investigators said they have no idea how much equipment may have reached Iran before they began investigating the ring in 1983. But Villanueva said that no "critical" aircraft parts reached Iran after customs began the investigation.