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Press Release

International Arms Trafficker Found Guilty for Conspiring to Kill Americans and Provide Material Support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Romanian Citizen Agreed to Provide Military-Grade Weapons to be Used to Shoot Down American Aircraft in Colombia

Virgil Flaviu Georgescu, 43, of Romania, was convicted by a federal jury today of conspiring to sell large quantities of military-grade weaponry to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the FARC), a designated foreign terrorist organization, to be used to kill Americans in Colombia.  Georgescu’s conviction followed a 10-day trial before U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams of the Southern District of New York.

The conviction was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York.

“As the jury swiftly found, Virgil Flaviu Georgescu conspired to kill American officers and provide material support to the FARC,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.  “In concert with his co-defendants, Georgescu conspired to obtain and sell to the FARC military weapons, including anti-aircraft cannons and rocket propelled grenades, to be used against American personnel and aircraft in Colombia.  Having sought to profit from the murder of U.S. officers abroad, Georgescu has now been convicted in the U.S. by a unanimous jury.”

According to the allegations in the indictment, other documents publicly filed in federal court and the evidence introduced at trial:

Between May 2014 and December 2014, Georgescu, a Romania-based weapons broker, conspired with his co-defendants, a former Romanian government official and a former member of the Italian Parliament, to sell an arsenal of weapons, including machine guns and anti-aircraft cannons, to the FARC, with the understanding that the FARC would use the weapons against U.S. personnel in Colombia.  During a series of recorded telephone calls and in-person meetings, Georgescu and his co-conspirators agreed to sell the weapons to three confidential sources (CSs), who represented that they were acquiring these weapons for the FARC but were, in fact, working with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  Georgescu and his co-conspirators agreed to provide these weapons to the CSs with the specific understanding that the weapons would be used to kill Americans and, in particular, to shoot down American helicopters and airplanes.

Georgescu first spoke with a CS in May 2014.  Thereafter, Georgescu recruited both of his co-conspirators to help obtain the weapons for the CSs, with the understanding that the former Romanian government official would provide weapons expertise and the former Italian Parliament member would help secure fraudulent end-user certificates, in order to make the illegal sale of weapons look legitimate.  Georgescu instructed his co-conspirators and others involved in the deal to use encrypted applications when communicating about the weapons deal to avoid detection by U.S. authorities.

Over the course of five consensually-recorded meetings with the CSs in Romania and Montenegro, Georgescu and his co-conspirators provided the CSs with catalogues of weapons that included anti-aircraft cannons, rocket propelled and thermobaric grenades and other high-powered weapons, as well as military-grade optical equipment.  During these meetings, the CSs explained that the arms would be used to kill Americans and Georgescu offered his thoughts on what weapons would best suit the FARC’s needs.

Between September 2014 and December 2014, Georgescu and his co-conspirators traveled to Romania, Montenegro, Italy, Germany, Albania, Poland and Bulgaria to advance the weapons deal.  During this period, the co-conspirators met with weapons suppliers, obtained sample fraudulent end-user certificates and test-fired military-grade rifles.  In December 2014, Georgescu and his co-conspirators secured a signed contract from a European weapons supplier to provide more than $17 million worth of weapons to a straw purchaser.  On Dec. 15, 2014, Georgescu met with the CSs, showed them the signed contract and discussed means of payment and transportation of the weapons to Colombia. 

Georgescu was arrested by Montenegrin authorities on the charges in the indictment on Dec. 15, 2014, and extradited to the United States on Feb. 25, 2015.

Georgescu was convicted of one count of conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, and one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.  Georgescu is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Abrams on Sept. 16, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. EDT.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin joined U.S. Attorney Bharara in praising the outstanding investigative efforts of the DEA’s Special Operations Division, the DEA’s Bucharest Country Office, the DEA’s Rome Country Office, the Montenegrin National Police and the Romanian Authorities.  Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Bharara also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrea Surratt and Ilan Graff of the Southern District of New York, with assistance from Trial Attorney Josh Parecki of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Updated August 11, 2016

National Security
Press Release Number: 16-613