Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Extradition Of International Arms Traffickers For Conspiracy To Kill Officers Or Employees Of The United States And Related Terrorism Charges
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michele M. Leonhart, Administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced today the extradition of CRISTIAN VINTILA (“VINTILA”), MASSIMO ROMAGNOLI (“ROMAGNOLI”), and VIRGIL FLAVIU GEORGESCU (“GEORGESCU”), international arms traffickers charged with 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 officers or employees of the United States in Colombia. VINTILA, GEORGESCU, and ROMAGNOLI, all of whom were arrested in December 2014, were extradited from Montenegro yesterday and arraigned in front of United States District Court Judge Ronnie Abrams today.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “As alleged, these three men were ready and willing merchants of death, poised to sell sophisticated weapons to a terrorist organization. It is further alleged that they conspired to sell the weaponry with the understanding that it would be used to shoot down American aircraft and kill American officers. We once again laud the efforts of the DEA to stem the flow of lethal weapons that could be aimed at U.S. officers and to deter weapons traffickers who mean harm to the United States.”
DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart stated: “Every day, DEA works to ensure the safety and security of Americans around the world. Cristian Vintila, Massimo Romagnoli, and Virgil Georgescu were involved in trafficking arms and weapons that were intended to kill Americans. Their extradition to the United States is an important accomplishment, and another example of DEA successfully working with international partners. We are pleased that they will now face justice in an American court.”
According to the Indictment, which was unsealed in December 2014:
Since at least May 2014, VINTILA has been a Romania-based weapons trafficker, ROMAGNOLI has been a Europe-based weapons trafficker, who is able to procure fraudulent end-user certificates (“EUCs”) for military-grade weaponry, and GEORGESCU has been a Romania-based weapons broker. Between May and October 2014, VINTILA, ROMAGNOLI, and GEORGESCU conspired to sell an arsenal of weapons, including machine guns and anti-aircraft cannons, with the understanding that the weapons would go to the FARC to be used by the FARC against the United States. During a series of recorded telephone calls and in-person meetings, VINTILA, ROMAGNOLI, and GEORGESCU agreed to sell the weapons to three confidential sources working with the DEA (the “CSs”), who represented that they were acquiring these weapons for the FARC. VINTILA, ROMAGNOLI, and GEORGESCU agreed to provide these weapons to the CSs with the specific understanding that the weapons would be used to kill officers or employees of the United States and, in particular, to shoot down American helicopters and airplanes. ROMAGNOLI further agreed to provide fraudulent EUCs, in order to make the illegal sale of weapons look legitimate.
During their recorded meetings, VINTILA and ROMAGNOLI provided the CSs with catalogues of military-grade weapons they were prepared to provide the FARC. VINTILA gave the CSs a catalogue of weapons that included pistols, machine guns, and other high-powered weaponry, and ROMAGNOLI showed the CSs a catalogue that included automatic weapons and shoulder-fired rocket launchers. ROMAGNOLI additionally showed one of the CSs a sample fraudulent EUC. VINTILA, ROMAGNOLI, and GEORGESCU also discussed the logistics of receiving payment for the weapons from the CSs and delivering the weapons to the FARC.
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The Indictment charges VINTILA, 44, ROMAGNOLI, 43, and GEORGESCU, 42, with two separate terrorism offenses:
Count One charges all three defendants with conspiracy to kill officers or employees of the United States. If convicted of Count One, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of life in prison. Count Two charges all three defendants with conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. If convicted of Count Two, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised 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 National Police. The defendants’ arrests and subsequent extradition are also the result of the close cooperative efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, including Trial Attorney Brenda Sue Thornton, and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrea Surratt and Ilan Graff are in charge of the prosecution.
The allegations contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.