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U.S. charges companies with sending fighter parts to Iran

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Prosecutors release charges against U.S., French, Arab and Iranian companies
  • The heads of two American companies already have pleaded guilty
  • The parts were meant for aircraft Iran bought before the 1979 revolution

(CNN) -- Federal prosecutors say they have broken up a major effort to ship parts for fighter jets and helicopter gunships to Iran in violation of U.S. arms export laws.

In a raft of indictments announced Thursday, the Justice Department accuses executives from companies in Florida, Illinois, France and the United Arab Emirates with illegally supplying components for U.S.-built aircraft to Iran. An Iranian company and its top officers also have been charged in the case.

"Through coordinated law enforcement efforts, we have cut off more than a branch of this illegal supply tree; we have cut off the tree at its trunk," Michael Moore, the U.S. attorney in Macon, Georgia, said in a statement announcing the charges. The Florida-based company, The Parts Guys, kept a warehouse in Macon, according to the indictments.

The company and its president, Michael Todd, have already pleaded guilty to violating the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. The other U.S. company, The head of the other U.S. company named in the charges, Hamid "Hank" Seifi, was sentenced to nearly five years in prison on Wednesday, prosecutors said.

Both American firms are accused of supplying parts for 1970s-vintage warplanes and helicopters to Iran through the French company Aerotechnic and Emirates-based Aletra General Trading. Both of those companies were named in the indictments along with top executives from each, none of whom were in custody Thursday.

The parts were meant for F-4 Phantom II and F-5 Tiger jets, Huey helicopters and Cobra helicopter gunships. Iran purchased those aircraft before the 1979 revolution that toppled Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, a U.S. ally.

The charges disclosed Thursday include conspiracy to violate U.S. arms export laws and sanctions on Iran, as well as fraud, money laundering and making false statements to investigators.