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8 Americans Sentenced to Prison in Brazil Arms Smuggling

Associated Press

A federal court has convicted eight American men and an Argentine ship captain of smuggling arms into Brazil and given them prison sentences.

Judge Julieta Lunz, in a verdict late Thursday, said the court suspected the arms were destined for rural areas of Brazil where ranchers and peasants are fighting over land.

John Dee Early and Eduardo Gilardoni, the Argentine captain of the ship carrying the arms, were sentenced to five years in prison. The other Americans got four years each.

The other Americans were identified by police as Edward Robert Foti, Warren Steven Hedrick, Frederick Verdiun, Sheldon Ainsworth, Julio Larrazabal, Steven Villa Sosa and Michael Timothy Carmody. The U.S. Consulate said that it could not divulge the Americans’ hometowns.

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The group was arrested on March 14 in Itaipu, a small port 20 miles east of here. Federal police impounded the Nobistor, a Panamanian-registered supply ship, and seized six tons of weapons.

According to the U.S. Consulate, the Americans claimed they were legally hired to accompany the shipment from Argentina, where the arms were bought, to Ghana in West Africa and to train the Ghana military to use the weapons.

Gilardoni claimed that while at sea, he discovered he had been deceived by a man purporting to represent the Ghana government, and immediately put into port in Brazil.

Tavares said the judge found in her decision “it was too much of a coincidence that heavy-caliber weapons would appear in Brazil exactly at the time we are having such heated conflicts over land.”

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