Published September 25, 2003
MIAMI – Federal agents have arrested an Iranian man for violating arms export laws and trying to sell spare weapons parts to Iran's government.
Based on information from the Department of Homeland Security (search), Fox News has learned that agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau said before they arrested the 40-year-old man, they told him what he was planning on doing was illegal.
The arrest took place last Friday inside a room at the Embassy Suites (search) hotel in Miami. According to federal officials, Serzhik Avasappian was arrested for violating the Arms Export Control Act (search) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations Act (search). He apparently did not have the required export license from the State Department.
ICE agents had reportedly been in contact, undercover, with Avasappian since January 2002. Federal officials said he told them he was a broker based in Tehran and was trying to buy spare weapons parts for the Iranian government.
The United States has placed Iran on its list of countries that sponsor terrorism, and that nation is strongly thought to be conducting secret nuclear weapons programs.
On Thursday, weapons inspectors from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (search) reportedly found more traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium in Iran. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.
Back in the 1970s, the United States sold dozens of F-14s to Iran but severed all ties once the shah was overthrown in 1979.
Federal officials say Avasappian was trying to buy nearly $800,000 worth of parts for those F-14 jets (search), as well as electrical parts for C-130 cargo planes and helicopters.
Avasappian didn't know he was dealing with undercover agents.
"Keeping sensitive U.S. military components from falling into the wrong hands is one of the highest priorities of the ICE," ICE interim Special Agent-in-Charge Jesus Torres said in a statement. "While these components may appear relatively innocuous to the untrained eye, they are tightly controlled for good reason. In the wrong hands they pose a potential threat to Americans at home and abroad."
Avasappian was being held without bond at the Miami Federal Detention Center. He made his first appearance in federal court Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It was unclear whether an attorney had been assigned to him.