SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Richard Lant, 77, of Las Vegas, Nevada, pleaded guilty today to a conspiracy to export to an embargoed country, Iran, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced. On Sept. 19, 2022, Dariush Niknia, 59, of Elk Grove, entered a guilty plea to the same charge.
According to court documents, between May and October 2015, Niknia, Lant and others conspired to unlawfully sell and supply 500 Russian-made tank helmets to Niknia’s contact in Tehran, Iran. The helmets were to be configured for a Russian-produced T-72S battle tank and were required to have a five-pin plug, a feature that is necessary to enable a tank communication device.
In May 2015, Niknia contacted Lant, who operated R&L Ltd., a company that sold Russian items, and requested to purchase 500 T-72S tank helmets and to have the helmets shipped to Tehran. Niknia initially paid R&L monies to purchase sample tank helmets and to have the helmets sent from Russia to Iran. Prior to the shipment of the first sample helmet both Lant and Niknia were told that the United States’ sanctions prohibited the shipment of items to Iran, but both proceeded with the transaction.
Niknia’s customer rejected the first sample helmet because it did not have a rectangular five-pin plug, but approved the second sample tank helmet that was sent to Tehran. In an email communication with Niknia, Niknia’s Iranian contact discussed the fact that the helmets would be inspected by the ultimate buyer, the “GOI” or Government of Iran. Niknia then requested additional helmets be sent to Tehran, 50 at a time, and paid Lant money for the purchase and shipment of the first 50 helmets. However, the deal ultimately fell apart before additional helmets were sent because Lant’s associate could not obtain and ship the tank helmets in the quantities and timeframe Niknia required. The Russian supplier said the difficulties stemmed from the fact that it was illegal to both sell large quantities of tank helmets and to send modern military items to countries such as Iran that might use them in “terroristic or any war ways.”
In May 2015, prior to contacting Lant, Niknia attempted to purchase battle tank helmets from another individual who sold Russian military memorabilia online. This individual did not sell Niknia any helmets and instead reported him to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The embargo on Iran, which is enforced through the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, prohibits the export, sale, and supply of goods to Iran by United States persons with very limited exceptions. It also prohibits, with very limited exceptions, United States persons from engaging in any transaction or dealing related to the sale or supply of goods to Iran.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Shelley D. Weger is prosecuting the case with assistance from Trial Attorney Scott Claffee of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division.
Niknia and Lant are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kimberley J. Mueller on Dec. 5, 2022, and Jan. 9, 2023 respectively. Both face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.