3 Charged With Conspiring to Sell Cargo Planes to Iran
NEW YORK (AP) _ A U.S. Customs Service sting operation led to the indictment Thursday of three men charged with trying to arrange the sale of three American-made, Israeli-owned military cargo planes to Iran.
The indictment charged the men with conspiring to cover up the aircrafts’ true destination by submitting false papers to the U.S. State Department which said the planes were to be bought by a Brazilian company.
The defendants were identified as intermediaries who arranged the sale, which was never completed.
They were charged with one count of conspiracy, which accused them of trying to circumvent the Arms Export Control Act.
The law says the State Department must approve all transfers abroad of American-made military goods and denies the sale of such goods to countries, such as Iran, that have supported acts of international terrorism.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Baruch Weiss said he could not say whether Israel knew the planes, C-130E military cargo aircrafts, were to be sold to Iran. The arranged sale price was $12 million for each aircraft, he said.
The Brazilian company, which was not identified, allegedly was to receive $500,000 for providing the false information to the State Department, the indictment said.
The defendants named in the indictment were Joseph O’Toole, 58, of Claremont, Calif., Richard St. Francis, 40, of Fairfield, Conn., and Ari Ben Menashe, an Israeli citizen.
All three were first arrested in April when the terms of the deal were finalized with an undercover Customs agent. The case was then presented to a grand jury which returned the indictment.
Menashe has been jailed without bail since his arrest. The others are free on bond.
Weiss said he could not give more information about the defendants. St. Francis, however, was identified in court papers as a vice president of the Connecticut office of Vienna, Va.-based TransCapital Corp.
If convicted of conspiracy, the men face up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine.