Two brothers who masterminded a ring that smuggled stolen Navy jet fighter parts to Iran were sentenced to prison by a U.S. District Court judge here Monday, despite efforts by one defendant to withdraw his guilty plea and take the case to trial.
Judge Leland Nielsen sentenced Franklin Agustin, 48, of San Diego, the ring's West Coast kingpin, to 13 years and ordered him to pay a $100,000 fine for his role in funneling an estimated $7 million in F-14 parts to the Persian Gulf nation. The defendant, who suffers from a serious lung infection, will initially be held at the federal medical facility in Springfield, Mo.
Edgardo Agustin, meanwhile, lost a bid to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial on as many as 90 counts of conspiracy, interstate transport of stolen federal property, exportation of military equipment and making false statements. The 46-year-old defendant from Jamaica, N.Y., instead received an 18-year prison term and was fined $100,000.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Philip Halpern called the sentences "gratifying" and "befitting the severity of these offenses." He had sought a 27-year prison term for Edgardo Agustin, the maximum penalty possible under his plea bargain.
The Agustins were the last of eight people sentenced in connection with the international smuggling ring, which operated from 1981, if not earlier, until 1985. According to prosecutors, the smuggling operation sold military hardware stolen from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, other ships and the Naval Supply Depot at North Island.
Federal agents say Franklin Agustin cultivated a network of sailors and Navy civilian employees to obtain the parts and ran the ring from his National City insurance office. His brother, Edgardo, used an East Coast company to ship the stolen jet parts--including flight computers and parts for the Phoenix missile--to England. From there, they were sold to Iran, a country that needs spare parts for its U.S.-made jets.