A dual citizen of Iran and the United States is being held for trial in Manhattan on charges that he conspired to acquire Russian-built long-range surface-to-air missiles for the Iranian government, authorities announced Friday.
Reza Olangian of Los Gatos, Calif., was arrested in Tallinn, Estonia, in October 2012 and extradited to the U.S. in March, prosecutors said as they released a criminal complaint and an indictment charging him with multiple crimes including conspiracy to attempt to acquire and transfer surface-to-air missiles as well as violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
In a release, Derek Maltz, special agent-in-charge of the DEA Special Operations Division, said: "Mr. Olangian's conspiracy could have put American lives at risk, as well as those of our friends across the globe."
According to court papers, Olangian first tried unsuccessfully to obtain about 100 missiles for the Iranian government in 2007. The documents alleged that he began negotiating a new deal for missiles in early 2012, unaware that he was dealing with a confidential source for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who posed as a weapons and aircraft broker from Russia.
Those talks included a live videoconference in summer 2012 with the confidential source, the government said. During recorded meetings, Olangian and the source spoke about the cost of a handheld, portable infrared-homing missile system that could be fired by a single person, the criminal complaint said.
By August 2012, Olangian was boasting that he had signed a contract to provide the weapons, the document said. Olangian, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in January 1999, claimed to have a business office in Tehran, Iran, the complaint said.
It said he sought a Russian long-range surface-to-air missile system that was developed to fire missiles at aircraft and cruise missiles or to intercept ballistic missiles. The complaint, written by DEA Agent Derek Odney, quoted Olangian telling the confidential source that selling the missile system "would make us both very rich."
After his arrest, Olangian told investigators that he was trying to acquire aircraft components for an Iran-based company that hoped to provide them to the Iranian Ministry of Defense, Odney wrote.
He told investigators that he wanted to obtain the missiles because he had been introduced to two individuals who claimed they were employees of the Iranian Ministry of Defense, the complaint said.
A lawyer for Olangian did not immediately return a phone message. Olangian was due in court Nov. 13.