3 Seized in Plot to Help Saudis, Iraq Build Bomb

Times Staff Writer

Three Los Angeles-area men were arrested Wednesday and accused of stealing classified plans of this nation's deadly "cluster bomb" weapon system and offering to help Saudi Arabia and war-torn Iraq produce the weapon within 18 months.

FBI agents, who had been working on the case for more than a month, interrupted a meeting at the Marriott Airport Hotel and arrested Richard Herman Schroeder, 54, of Diamond Bar; Anthony George Cenci, 61, Costa Mesa, and Richard P. Nortman, 59, Los Angeles. The three were brought before U.S. Magistrate Venetta S. Tassopulos for investigation of charges that they conspired to export the material in violation of the federal Arms Export Control Act.

The magistrate's hearing was continued until next week and, meanwhile, the suspects were ordered held without bail.

Named in Complaint

The three were named in a complaint supported by an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Rudolph Valadez. The affidavit was based largely on information supplied by Harold Clegg Smith, an informant whom Assistant U.S. Atty. Jeffrey Modisett declined to identify further.

The affidavit outlined ambitious proposals to provide technological help to the two Middle East countries--for a price.

Schroeder, president of Westland Group International of Diamond Bar, worked as a subcontractor manager for Aerojet Ordnance in Downey from December, 1981, to March, 1986. An Aerojet spokesman told investigators that Schroeder had been fired for trying to sell the combined effects munitions weapon, also called the cluster bomb, to Saudi Arabia. Cenci also formerly worked for Aerojet.

"When you get down to the bottom line, we don't give a (obscenity) about the risk, because profit speaks for itself," the affidavit quoted Schroeder as saying.

The cost of Schroeder's proposals to Saudi Arabia's minister of defense, Prince Sultan ibn Abdulaziz, ranged from $860 million to $890 million, the affidavit said.

For that price, Westland offered to manage "the entire program of acquisition and construction of facilities," according to the government.

Westland was described as a small, tightly knit group of managers, engineers, financial experts, scientists and educators who can provide high-technology product design, engineering and related services.

Lengthy War

Proposals to make the cluster bomb technology available to Iraq in its lengthy war with neighboring Iran were outlined in letters to Commercial Counselor Yousef Abdul Rahman at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington on Oct. 27 and again on Jan. 18, the government said.

"We urge you to go ahead with combined effects munitions immediately," one letter said. "It is an ideal conventional weapon to destroy attacking troops, support vehicles, tanks and missile bases. . . . What other weapon can dispense shrapnel; inflame and destroy tanks, support vehicles, and also destroy enemy airfields, missile sites and supply depots.

"Mr. Rahman, short of nuclear weapons, there is no other conventional single weapon with such combined effectivity."

Released from an aircraft, it was explained, a 1,000-pound bomb spins and scatters 202 bombs over an elliptical area approximately 300 feet long by 120 feet wide, with each bomb capable of penetrating seven-inch-thick armor.

According to the FBI, Schroeder told its informer, Smith, that the Iraqi government was very interested in the weapons system and was willing to pay cash, and that he (Schroeder) planned to travel to Iraq, after first visiting Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Videotaped Meeting

FBI Agent Valadez reported that he secretly videotaped a meeting attended by Schroeder, Cenci, Nortman, Smith and an undercover FBI agent on Feb. 4 at the Marriott Airport Hotel, and he quoted Cenci as saying:

"We know how to build. We know how to machine. We know how to tool. We know how to test. . . . We have a print for every component. . . ."

Modisett said that when Schroeder and the others were arrested during another videotaped meeting Wednesday, airline tickets were found, supporting speculation that at least two of the suspects may have been planning to fly to Germany today, then on to Saudi Arabia.

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