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4 charged in NY Iran-China weapons shipment scheme

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LARRY NEUMEISTER | December 5, 2012 08:11 PM EST | AP

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NEW YORK — Four men have been charged with arranging shipments to China and Iran of weapons materials or a substance that can be used in uranium enrichment, officials announced Wednesday after indictments containing the charges were unsealed.

Three of the men have been arrested while the fourth is in being sought to face charges described in court papers in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Those charges include allegations that they broke embargo and export laws, with two of them accused of arranging to send a shipment of carbon fiber to Iran, where U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said it "most assuredly had the potential to end up in the wrong hands." Authorities said carbon fiber can be used in gas centrifuges that enrich uranium and in military aircraft and strategic missiles.

"Whether motivated by greed or otherwise, these defendants allegedly violated the law, including by arranging for the export of carbon fiber that can be used in uranium enrichment," said George Venizelos, head of the New York FBI office.

James T. Hayes Jr., head of Homeland Security Investigations at the New York office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the arrests occurred as part of a daily "cat-and-mouse game with individuals who will go to great lengths to circumvent U.S. Customs law to export sensitive military grade technology to countries like Iran and China."

"If in the wrong hands," he said, "carbon fiber can be used to manufacture dangerous products that threaten our national security and the security of other nations."

In court papers, the government said Hamid Reza Hashemi since 2007 had successfully arranged for the shipment of carbon fiber, including from the United States, to his company in Tehran. The dual U.S. and Iranian citizen, who lives in Iran, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he entered the United States on Saturday.

Peter Gromacki, a U.S. citizen who lived and worked in Orange County, was arrested Wednesday and charged with arranging the export of more than 6,000 pounds of carbon fiber from the U.S. to Belgium for shipment to China. Authorities said he made false statements about where the shipments were headed.

Amir Abbas Tamimi, an Iranian citizen and a resident of Iran who was arrested at Kennedy airport as he entered the country on Oct. 5, was accused of attempting to arrange since November 2011 for the export from the U.S. to Iran of helicopter parts that can be used for military purposes, including reconnaissance and as missile platforms.

Murat Taskiran, a Turkish citizen accused in the plot to ship carbon fiber from the U.S. to Iran, remains a fugitive.

Hashemi and Tamimi were detained after court appearances while Gromacki was freed on $400,000 bail after an arraignment in federal court in White Plains.

Messages left with lawyers for the three arrested men on Wednesday were not immediately returned.