Members Of International Arms Smuggling Network Sentenced To Prison For Trafficking Weapons And Ammunition To Greece
CAMDEN, N.J. – Four members of an international arms trafficking organization were sentenced to prison today in New Jersey for conspiring to smuggle substantial quantities of firearms and ammunition from the United States to Greece, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Dennis Meleshes, 46, and Vladimir Polivka, 58, of Las Vegas and Nick Somos, 71, of Queens, N.Y., each previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joseph E. Irenas to informations charging them with conspiracy to smuggle weapons. Vasileios Angelakis, 36, also of Queens, previously pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony.
Judge Irenas sentenced Meleshes to serve six months in prison and six months of home confinement; and Polivka, Somos and Angelakis to 24, 18 and 15 months in prison, respectively.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in Camden federal court:
Beginning in December 2011, Meleshes, Polivka and Somos orchestrated a plan to acquire a large quantity of weapons and ammunition in the United States that they intended to ship to Greece for sale on the black market. Meleshes and Polivka purchased a number of weapons – some of the money for which was provided by Angelakis – at various locations in Nevada and surrounding areas.
Meleshes and Polivka ultimately created a weapons cache that included 65 revolvers and semi-automatic pistols, an UZI machine gun, one AK-47 assault rifle and approximately 10,540 assorted rounds of ammunition. Meleshes and Polivka packed the weapons in two vehicles – an Audi A6 and a Chevrolet Caprice – one of which contained an improvised lock system, or “trap,” which was intended to prevent law enforcement from finding the cache. Polivka and another individual then drove the vehicles to a freight forwarding service in Brooklyn, N.Y., where Somos had arranged for the cars to be loaded onto cargo containers and placed on a commercial shipping line bound for Greece via Port Naples, Italy. Meleshes and Angelakis traveled to Italy in order to personally receive the shipment.
Customs officials issued a recall on the shipment and the cargo container was returned to the Port of New York/Newark in New Jersey. The weapons cache was seized on April 3, 2012. Law enforcement confirmed it contained items listed as U.S. Munitions List defense articles, which require a license to be exported out of the United States. No such license accompanied any of the firearms recovered and a search of law enforcement databases revealed that no licenses had been obtained by any of the defendants for the items.
In fact, the export documents filed in connection with the shipment did not list any of the weapons or ammunition.
In all, the seized weapons and ammunition were worth more than $250,000 on the secondary market in Greece.
In addition to the prison terms, Judge Irenas sentenced Meleshes, Polivka and Somos to serve three years of supervised release and Angelakis to serve a year of supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Andrew M. McLees; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Cannon; U.S. Customs and Border Protection, led by Robert E. Perez, director of New York Field Operations; as well as detectives from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis C. Carletta of the U.S. Attorney’s Office National Security Unit in Newark.
Dennis Meleshes: Ryan Clark Esq., Freehold, N.J.
Vladimir Polivka: Susan C. Cassell Esq., Ridgewood, N.J.
Nick Somos: Louis Rosenthal Esq., Brooklyn
Vasileios Angelakis: Joseph Rubino Esq., West Orange, N.J.