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Contractor Caught in Iran Embargo Sting Gets 92 Months

A New York man was sentenced to 92 months in prison for agreeing to illegally ship industrial material to Iran in violation of a U.S. trade embargo.

Richard Phillips, 54, offered to help send carbon fiber, a material used in military and nuclear technology, to Iran, at the request of a Homeland Security agent posing as a buyer, the U.S. said in court filings.

Phillips, a resident of the Bronx, New York, pleaded guilty in January to violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. He was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Sandra L. Townes in Brooklyn, New York.

“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, I was in a desperate situation, I needed money,” Phillips said in court today.

Florian Miedel, Phillips’ lawyer, asked for leniency and said it was unfair to treat the actions by the former contractor the same way as a person who was trying to send weapons or attack helicopters.

“Mr. Phillips couldn’t care one bit about Iran,” Miedel said. “The punishment should fit the crime.”

Federal sentencing guidelines provided for a prison term of 92 months to 115 months. Prosecutors argued against leniency.

“While the defendant expressed some unease about the potential use of the commodity, he nevertheless embraced the scheme,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme said in a memorandum submitted to the court.

In September 2011, Phillips responded to an Internet advertisement seeking assistance of an “export specialist” in shipping goods to Iran, according to the indictment against him. Phillips offered to ship a spool of aerospace-grade carbon fiber without first obtaining an export license, in violation of U.S. trade regulations, according to the filing.

The case is USA v. Phillips, 1:11-cr-00757, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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