Richard Phillips pleaded guilty this afternoon to attempting to export merchandise to Iran in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The proceedings were held before United States Magistrate Judge James Orenstein at the United States Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York. When sentenced, Phillips faces a maximum of 20 years' imprisonment.
The guilty plea was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York Field Office, and Ed Bradley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Northeast Field Office.
According to the pleadings and other court filings by the government, between October 5, 2011 and October 24, 2011, Phillips offered his service and expertise in exporting a spool of carbon fiber to Tehran, Iran, via the Philippines, in direct contravention of the United States trade embargo against Iran. The two main applications of carbon fiber are in specialized technology, including aerospace and nuclear engineering, and in general engineering and transportation. In a recorded telephone conversation with an undercover agent, Phillips was warned that the export of the carbon fiber to Iran was illegal under the trade embargo. In a subsequent recorded conversation Phillips stated, "I know what the rules are ... I know what the grey area is ... I could give a f*** about what they say about what we can ship somewhere else."
After a series of recorded telephone calls, email exchanges and meetings with undercover agents of HSI and DCIS, on October 21, 2011, Phillips took possession of a spool of carbon fiber, which was placed into a shipping container, and affixed a label to the container addressed to the Philippines, where it was to be forwarded to Iran.
"Motivated purely by greed, this defendant threw his energies into supplying Iran with carbon fiber and deliberately breaking the law. We stand committed to protecting our national security by enforcing our nation's export control laws," stated United States Attorney Lynch. "This case stands as a stark warning to those who would violate the Iranian embargo and send sensitive technology and equipment abroad." Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the Counter Espionage Section of the Department of Justice for its assistance.
"As alleged, Mr. Phillips willfully attempted to export U.S. technology to Iran at a time when the U.S. government is imposing tough sanctions against that country," said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Hayes. "Enforcing our nation's sanctions and trade embargoes is one of HSI's top priorities. It prevents U.S. technology from falling into the wrong hands."
"Today's guilty plea demonstrates the continued commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and fellow agencies in pro-actively identifying individuals and groups intent on acquiring U.S. military hardware and technology," stated DCIS Special Agent-in-Charge Bradley. "Safeguarding our military equipment and technology is vital to our nation's defense and the protection of our armed forces."
The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth DuCharme and Justin Lerer.