MOBILE, Ala. — A Belgian national and resident of France pleaded guilty Nov. 23 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama to conspiracy to illegally export F-5 fighter jet engines and parts from the Untied States to Iran following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Department of Defense's, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS).
Jacques Monsieur, along with Dara Fotouhi, an Iranian national who lives in France, was charged in a six-count indictment returned on Aug. 27, with conspiracy, money laundering, smuggling, as well as violations of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). He was arrested by federal agents in August 2009 upon his arrival in New York. Fotouhi remains at large.
According to Monsieur's factual proffer and the documents filed in court, Monsieur, along with his co-conspirator Fotouhi, are experienced arms dealers who have been actively working with the Iranian government to procure military items for the Iranian government. In February 2009, Monsieur contacted an undercover agent seeking engines for the F-5 (EIF) fighter jet and the C-130 military transport aircraft for export to Iran. Thereafter, Monsieur began having regular e-mail contact with the undercover agent regarding the requested F-5 engines and parts.
These engines, known as J85-21 models, are replacement engines for the F-5 fighter jet that was sold to Iran by the United States before the 1979 Iranian revolution. The engines and parts are designated as defense articles on the U.S. Munitions List and may not be exported from the United States without a license from the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury due to the U.S. trade embargo on Iran.
In May 2009, an undercover agent met with Monsieur where he introduced Fotouhi as a business associate, and again discussed the illegal export of F-5 fighter jet engines from the United States to Iran. During this negotiation, Monsieur asked the undercover agent if he could obtain or use U.S. shipping or export authorization documents that falsely indicated that the end user of the items would be located in Colombia.
In June 2009, Monsieur sent an e-mail to the undercover agent and provided a purchase order for F-5 fighter jet parts from a front company for an organization known as Trast Aero Space, located in Kyrgyzstan. The order requested that the parts be located by the undercover agent and illegally exported to the United Arab Emirates for the transshipment to Iran. The following month, Monsieur contacted the undercover agent indicating that approximately $110,000 had been wired from Dubai to a bank account in Alabama as payment for the parts. He also indicated that a deposit of $300,000 would be forthcoming as a down payment for two F-5 fighter jet engines. In August 2009, Monsieur requested information from the undercover agent about his contact in Colombia for forwarding the aircraft parts from Colombia to the United Arab Emirates.
"The guilty plea of Monsieur reflects the government's commitment to ensuring that critical technologies and military-grade weapons not fall into the wrong hands," said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton. "ICE will continue bringing to bear its unique law enforcement authorities to investigate and enforce criminal violations of all U.S. export laws related to military items and controlled "dual-use" commodities."
Eugene A. Seidel, acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama said, "Today's prosecution clearly shows that the United States will continue to be vigilant in cases dealing with arms traffickers and will relentlessly pursue every lead to shut down illegal arms transfer to Iran."
"Today's plea underscores the threat posed by Iranian procurement networks and the international arms traffickers who help supply them," said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. "I applaud the many agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service who worked tirelessly to bring about this important case."
"We realize foreign governments actively seek our equipment for their own military development. Therefore, preventing the export of critical technologies and restricted munitions is of extreme concern to the Department of Defense because of the real possibility that our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines may have to face this material in the hands of our adversaries and thereby lose the advantage that U.S. technology is supposed to provide them," said Sharon E. Woods, Director, Defense Criminal Investigative Service. "Protecting American's Warfighters through technology protection is a top priority for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the law enforcement arm of the DoD Inspector General, and a fundamental focus for our special agents."
Monsieur faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory A. Bordenkircher of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Alabama, with assistance from the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department's National Security Division.