SAN DIEGO – A former military intelligence officer was sentenced Monday to a year in federal prison for helping a convicted arms trafficker export parts for jet fighters and other aircraft that were ultimately destined for Iran.
George Charles Budenz II, a retired Navy commander, pleaded guilty in November to three counts of illegally exporting engine parts for F-5 fighters, T-38 military trainers and Chinook helicopters to Malaysia and Belgium on behalf of Pakistani arms dealer Arif Ali Durrani.
In court, Budenz called Durrani a "lying snake" who took advantage of him at a time of personal and financial distress.
"I screwed up," Budenz told the court. "I thought I knew what I was doing, but I misjudged badly. I should never have spent a moment with this man."
Federal Judge Larry A. Burns repeatedly commended Budenz for 26 years of distinguished military service and for cooperating with a federal investigation into Durrani's illicit arms dealing from Durrani's home in Rosarito Beach, Mexico.
"Mr. Budenz, I am sorry to have to do this. It brings me no joy to impose this sentence," Burns said, adding that Budenz was "the last guy in the world I would have suspected of this."
Durrani was sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison after being convicted in March of illegally exporting arms components with help from Budenz and another American, Richard Tobey. Durrani served a five-year sentence in the late 1980s for similar crimes after he was convicted of selling guidance systems for Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.
Budenz, 61, said he first began working with Durrani through a high-end furniture business. Durrani, who was deported after he completed his prison term in the 1990s, asked Budenz for help resuming his arms business in the United States.
Budenz said at a plea hearing in October that he shipped jet parts via Federal Express in December 2004 and January 2005 at Durrani's direction. Federal investigators say some of those components may have wound up in Iran.
At the time, Budenz said, he was suffering from tumors behind his nose and between his eyes.
Budenz admitted to the judge that he was aware of Durrani's earlier conviction for arms dealing when he agreed to work with him.
Budenz retired in 1994 after serving as a Naval Reserve intelligence officer on postings all over the world.
Tobey, Durrani's other accomplice, pleaded guilty in August to conspiring to violate U.S. arms export control laws. He said Durrani instructed him to send a T-38 cockpit canopy to the United Arab Emirates in 2004.