Man pleads guilty in Iran parts case

MIAMI (AP) -- A California man pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to violate the U.S. embargo against Iran by arranging for the sale of parts for military aircraft, including fighter jets and attack helicopters.

Iranian-born Hassan Keshari, a 48-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen living in Novato, Calif., pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy count in a deal with prosecutors that could sharply reduce his prison sentence in return for continued cooperation. He faces a maximum of five years at sentencing set for April 8.

At a hearing, Keshari told U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz he had compromised himself by helping Iran procure parts for such aircraft as the F-14 Tomcat fighter, C-130 cargo plane and AH-1 attack helicopter.

"I have to come clean, in mind more than anything else," Keshari said. "I am here accepting responsibility for that."

Prosecutors said Keshari and his company, Kesh Air International Corp., acted as a go-between in the deals with a supplier based in Plantation, Fla. The parts were shipped first to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and then to buyers in Iran, according to court documents.

The Florida supplier, Romanian-born Traian Bujduveanu, 54, was also arrested and is scheduled to go to trial in May unless a plea deal is worked out, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Damian. Bujduveanu is also a naturalized U.S. citizen.

"He's sitting at the table, but we have not reached an agreement at this point," Damian said.

Bujduveanu's attorney did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Keshari's plea deal includes dismissing 10 other related charges.

"Mr. Keshari looks forward to getting this behind him," said defense attorney David O. Markus.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say Iran maintains a network of parts brokers and suppliers for its military gear, much of which was originally built in the U.S. In Keshari's case, the parts were fairly routine - examples include bolts, an F-14 harness, a gyroscope - but essential for each specific aircraft.

The Justice Department last year brought charges against 145 people for arms export or embargo violations, with nearly half of those involving Iran or China. One such case was the December conviction in Fort Lauderdale of an Iranian woman for attempting to help Iran obtain thousands of pairs of sophisticated U.S. night-vision goggles.

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