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Iranian-American charged with trying to buy surface-to-air missiles for Tehran

Ognen Teofilovski / Reuters

Macedonian soldiers fire a Russian-made IGLA ground-to-air missile during a live fire exercise in 2008.

A dual citizen of Iran and the United States has been charged in federal court with trying to obtain hundreds of surface-to-air missiles for the Iranian government in violation of restrictions on technology sales to Tehran.


Reza Olangian is charged with two counts of conspiracy to acquire and transfer the missiles and two counts of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act -- a 1977 law that authorizes the president to restrict trade with foreign powers deemed to pose a threat to the United States -- in an indictment unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.


The indictment alleges that beginning in May 2012, Olangian communicated on multiple occasions with a confidential informant of the Drug Enforcement Administration posing as an aircraft and weapons broker and attempted to purchase “at least 200” IGLA-S surface-to-air missiles and other aircraft parts that he intended to transfer to the Iranian government.

Olangian said in recorded conversations and email correspondence with the informant that he intended to smuggle the missiles into Iran by land, either from Afghanistan or another neighboring country, the indictment said.

Olangian was arrested on Oct. 10, 2012, during a trip to Estonia and extradited to the U.S. in May, the indictment said. During questioning following his arrest, he stated that he had been working with Iranian government officials and that the missiles and aircraft parts he attempted to procure were for the Iranian government, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

The DEA has been critical to numerous important Southern District arms cases, in part because of the agency's strong network of international informants and its ability to trace money across across borders and mediums for currency movement and exchange.

If convicted of the most serious charges against him, Olangian would face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

It was not immediately known if Olangian had retained an attorney.

Mike Brunker is NBC News' investigations editor; Richard Esposito is senior executive producer for investigations.

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