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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit

Ukrainian national pleads guilty to conspiracy to export night vision equipment

NEW YORK — A citizen of Ukraine pleaded guilty today to conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act. These charges stem from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS).

Volodomyr Ponomarenko, 43, pleaded guilty to attempting to export military-grade night vision equipment from the United States to Ukraine. HSI agents arrested Ponomarenko while attempting to enter the United States on March 23, 2011.

"Today's guilty plea ends a conspiracy to willfully violate the customs laws of the United States and further safeguards America's sensitive military technology,"said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. "HSI agents and our partners with DCIS and the United States Attorney's Office expertly foiled a potentially dangerous smuggling scheme."

"The defendant tried to circumvent laws that protect our national security by preventing specialized technologies from falling into the wrong hands,"said Loretta E. Lynch, United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. "As today's conviction shows, the United States will vigorously prosecute violations of our laws that help maintain the superiority of our armed forces on land, sea, and air."

"Today's guilty plea demonstrates the ongoing commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, in cooperation with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney's Office, to aggressively pursue those intent on acquiring and illegally exporting U.S. military technology,"said Kenneth Siegler, resident agent in charge of DCIS. "Any attempt to circumvent the export laws will be fully investigated and prosecuted to ensure that America's Warfighters maintain their tactical and strategic advantage around the world."

As alleged in the indictment and the underlying criminal complaint, the defendant purchased military-grade night vision equipment and other restricted weapons components from dealers in the United States and then attempted to export that equipment to Ukraine without the required license. As part of the export scheme, the defendant used straw purchasers in the United States to purchase the equipment. In exchange for a fee, the straw purchasers shipped the items to various freight forwarding companies for export to the defendant in Ukraine. Pursuant to the investigation, however, the night vision scopes and other weapons components were intercepted by law enforcement at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The export of military-grade night vision equipment requires a license from the United States Department of State, and those who willfully seek to circumvent that requirement face significant criminal penalties. When sentenced, Ponomarenko faces up to five years in prison.