News and Press Releases

Military Intelligence Officer Knew He Needed Permit to Send Firearms Parts to Japan

November 7, 2008

TOMOAKI IISHIBA, 34, a Captain in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to one year in prison and three years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Smuggle Goods from the United States. IISHIBA pleaded guilty July 28, 2008, admitting that he shipped firearms parts, including holographic night vision firearms sights to contacts in Japan, with false information on the customs declaration forms. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman said IISHIBA was “a soldier who had abused his trust, using his military address to order parts and then shipping them to foreign nationals.... The problem with putting something in the stream of commerce is you don’t know where it will end up.”

IISHIBA joined the U.S. Army in 1999. He currently is assigned at Fort Lewis as an Assistant Operations Officer. Previously IISHIBA was sent to Japan as a Military Intelligence Officer who was to act as a liaison to the Japanese military and was involved in training Japanese soldiers. In the plea agreement, IISHIBA admitted that between 2006 and February 2008, IISHIBA shipped EoTech 553 holographic night vision compatible firearm sights; EoTech 550 firearm sights; upper receivers modified for Airsoft; and various scopes to individuals and business contacts in Japan. IISHIBA had met these contacts while serving in the military in Japan. In October and December 2006, IISHIBA shipped sixty of the holographic sights to a contact in Japan. IISHIBA purposely mislabeled the customs form for the shipment because he knew he needed a license to ship the firearms parts to Japan.

At sentencing IISHIBA told the court he sent only weapon accessories, not actual firing parts, and that he sent the items to friends in Japanese military and law enforcement “because they love freedom as much as we do.” IISHIBA says most of the parts were sent for use in gaming similar to paint ball.

In agreeing to request a probationary sentence, government prosecutors noted that IISHIBA had not actually harmed the security interests of the U.S. since the materials went to police officers and military officers in Japan. Additionally, prosecutors expect IISHIBA to lose his military career. “The loss of his military career will be a difficult blow to the defendant. It is clear that he has committed his life to service in the U.S. Army. Losing his military career, under these difficult circumstances, will serve as a more severe punishment than anything this Court could impose,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

Judge Pechman said she believed prison time was important to send a message that “we cannot have individual officers deciding who needs weapons. It does not make us safer to proliferate these items of warfare around the world.” As for IISHIBA’s military career, Judge Pechman said she was “sorry (his) military career would come to an end, but someone who has exercised this type of judgement should not be an intelligence officer.”

“The illegal export of U.S. weapons and technology could jeopardize our nation’s security,” said Leigh Winchell, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “ICE takes this type of violation of federal law seriously and we will continue to aggressively investigate these cases.”

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.

In October 2007, the Justice Department announced the launch of a national export enforcement initiative to harness the counter-proliferation assets of U.S. law enforcement, licensing, and intelligence agencies in order to better combat the growing national security threat posed by illegal exports of restricted U.S. military and dual-use technology. For more information about the national export enforcement initiative, please click here.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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