Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ODED ORBACH, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 25 years in prison for conspiring to provide material support to the Taliban and conspiring to acquire anti-aircraft missiles. The case arose out of a DEA undercover operation in which ORBACH and a co-defendant, Alwar Pouryan, also a U.S. citizen, agreed to provide various military-grade weapons, including heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, to an individual they believed to represent the Taliban. ORBACH and Pouryan were convicted on April 19, 2013, after a two-week bench trial before U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald. On September 25, 2013, Pouryan was sentenced to 25 years in prison by Judge Buchwald, who also imposed today’s sentence.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “Today’s sentence ensures that Oded Orbach will be held to account for agreeing to provide over $25 million in military-grade weapons, including heat-seeking surface-to-air-missiles, to a source he believed represented the Taliban, and even though he knew the weapons would be used against the U.S. This Office stands ready to pursue and prosecute those who would provide support to terrorist organizations that target our country.”
According to evidence at trial and documents previously filed in Manhattan federal court:
Beginning in the fall of 2010, and continuing through their arrest in February 2011, the defendants communicated with a confidential source (the “CS”) working with the DEA who purported to represent the Taliban. The communications occurred during audio-recorded and videotaped meetings in Ghana, Ukraine, and Romania, as well as by telephone and email. During these communications, ORBACH and Pouryan 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, at different times, discussed weapons specifications, pricing, and the provision of training for the various weapons, including “Stinger” surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank missiles, grenade launchers, and M-16 assault rifles. ORBACH and Pouryan 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, ORBACH and Pouryan 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 defendants also discussed various weapons requested by the purported Taliban representative, drafted price lists and payment schedules for the weapons, and created internal budget documents that reflected the expenses and anticipated income from the weapons deal. ORBACH also emailed third-party weapons suppliers seeking to obtain certain of the requested weapons.
Following the final meeting in Bucharest, Romania, on February 10, 2011, ORBACH and Pouryan were arrested by Romanian authorities in coordination with the DEA. In April 2011, the Government of Romania extradited the defendants to the United States to face charges in the Southern District of New York.
In addition to the prison term, ORBACH, 55, Highland Park, Illinois, was ordered to pay $1,596.00 in forfeiture, and a $200 special assessment fee.
Mr. Bharara praised the extraordinary work of the Special Operations Division of the DEA, as well as the DEA Warsaw Country Office, the DEA Ghana Country Office, the DEA Athens Country Office, and the DEA SECI (South East European Cooperative Initiative Regional Center for Combating Transborder Crime). Mr. Bharara also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and National Security Division, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, 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 and Aimee Hector are in charge of the prosecution.