Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Convictions Of Two U.S. Citizens For Conspiring To Aid The Taliban
Defendants Found Guilty Of Agreeing To Sell Surface-To-Air Missiles And Other Lethal Weapons To Terrorists
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that ALWAR POURYAN and ODED ORBACH, two U.S. citizens, were found guilty of conspiring to provide material support to the Taliban and conspiring to acquire anti-aircraft missiles. The case arose from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) undercover operation in which the defendants agreed to provide various military-grade weapons, including heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, to an individual they believed to represent the Taliban. POURYAN and ORBACH were convicted after a two-week bench trial before U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “By agreeing to sell arms to a source they believed represented the Taliban, Alwar Pouryan and Oded Orbach betrayed their country, and all the U.S. citizens they were willing to put in harm’s way. Now they stand convicted and will pay the price for their crimes and their betrayal. I want to thank our international law enforcement partners for their extraordinary efforts and cooperation, in particular, the DEA, and the dedicated prosecutors from this Office for their outstanding work in prosecuting this case.”
According to evidence presented at trial and documents previously filed in Manhattan federal court:
Beginning in the fall of 2010, and continuing through their arrests on February 10, 2011, POURYAN and ORBACH communicated with a confidential source (the "CS") working with the DEA who purported to represent the Taliban. The communications occurred by telephone, via e-mail, and in a series of audio-recorded and videotaped meetings over several months.
During meetings in Ghana, Ukraine, and Romania beginning in November 2010, POURYAN and ORBACH, at different times, agreed to arrange the sale of weapons to the CS for the Taliban’s use against U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. At the meetings, POURYAN and ORBACH discussed weapons specifications, pricing, and the provision of training in the use and deployment of various weapons, including, among others, “Stinger” surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank missiles, grenade launchers, and M-16 assault rifles. POURYAN and ORBACH were informed that the surface-to-air missiles, in particular, were needed to protect Taliban heroin laboratories against attacks by U.S. helicopters. The defendants also offered to provide regular shipments of ammunition. In total, POURYAN and ORBACH agreed to provide over $25 million in weapons, ammunition, and training, and expected to make over $800,000 in commissions in connection with the transaction.
The evidence also included internal e-mail and Skype communications between the defendants, which showed them discussing the various weapons requested by the purported Taliban representative, drafting price lists and payment schedules for the weapons, and creating internal budget documents that reflected the expenses and anticipated income from the weapons deal. The evidence also included emails from ORBACH to third-party weapons suppliers seeking to obtain certain of the requested weapons.
Following the final meeting in Bucharest, Romania on February 10, 2011, POURYAN and ORBACH were arrested by Romanian authorities in coordination with the DEA. On April 29, 2011, the defendants were transferred by the Government of Romania to the custody of the United States to face charges in the Southern District of New York.
POURYAN, 38, of Phoenix, Arizona, and ORBACH, 55, of Highland Park, Illinois, each face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison for the anti-aircraft missile count. They also face a maximum sentence of 15 years for the material support count. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Buchwald on September 4, 2013.
The charges, arrests, transfers, and prosecution of the defendants were the result of close cooperation among the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Special Operations Division of the DEA, the DEA Warsaw Country Office, the DEA Ghana Country Office, the DEA Athens Country Office, the DEA SECI (South East European Cooperative Initiative Regional Center for Combating Transborder Crime), the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the governments of Romania and Ukraine.
Mr. Bharara expressed his sincere gratitude for the work of the Romanian National Prosecutor’s Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism, the Romanian Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Appeals, and the Romanian National Police Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime.
This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christian R. Everdell, Aimee Hector, and Glen A. Kopp are in charge of the prosecution.