Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) -- An Iranian man faces a sentence of life in prison after he was convicted in federal court in New York of conspiring to import heroin into the U.S. in a scheme to help finance the Hezbollah terror group, prosecutors said.
A jury yesterday took about two hours to convict Siavosh Henareh, 58, after a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff in Manhattan, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. Henareh is scheduled for sentencing by Rakoff on Feb. 27.
The conviction “underscores the unflagging commitment of this office to put a stranglehold on narco-traffickers and to cut off sources of terrorist funding,” Bharara said in the statement.
Henareh and two other men, Cetin Asku and Bachar Wehbe, were charged in July last year with conspiring to sell heroin and buy weapons for Hezbollah, a militant organization based in Lebanon that’s designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel.
Aksu pleaded guilty in August to conspiring to provide material support to Hezbollah, conspiring to acquire anti-aircraft missiles, conspiring to import heroin into the U.S. and making false declarations before a federal court, prosecutors said. Wehbe pleaded guilty in November 2011 to conspiring to provide material support to Hezbollah, conspiring to acquire anti-aircraft missiles and obstruction of justice.
Wehbe is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 4, 2013, and Aksu on Aug. 22, 2014, prosecutors said. Both face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum term of life.
Henareh continues to maintain his innocence and intends to appeal the conviction after sentencing, said Robert William Ray, a court-appointed attorney with Pryor Cashman LLP who represented Henareh during the trial.
“Mr. Henareh was never charged, extradited or prosecuted on any terrorism or weapons-related charges,” Ray said in a telephone interview. “This was a single count prosecution of conspiracy to import heroin in the United States. So unlike his two co-defendants, he never faced terrorism or weapons charges.”
Prosecutors said Henareh had more than 30 meetings with confidential Drug Enforcement Agency sources and potential heroin suppliers in Greece, Romania, Turkey and other countries starting in June 2010.
Henareh agreed during the meetings to import hundreds of kilograms of heroin into the U.S., and was told by the confidential sources that profits from the sales would be used to purchase weapons for Hezbollah, prosecutors said.
A co-conspirator of Henareh gave the confidential sources a one-kilogram sample of the heroin in April 2011 in Bucharest to allow them to inspect its quality in advance of a larger delivery of hundreds of kilograms worth of the drug, prosecutors said.
Henareh volunteered his home as a location for the delivery of about 3 million euros to pay for 189 kilograms and helped his co-conspirators count the money before he was arrested by Romanian National Police in July 2011, prosecutors said.
Aksu and Wehbe also began to negotiate an arms deal while the heroin deal was being worked out, and agreed to buy military-grade weapons from the confidential sources on behalf of Hezbollah, prosecutors said.
In June 2011, Aksu and Wehbe signed a written contract to buy $9.5 million of weapons from the confidential sources for Hezbollah, including American-made Stinger surface-to-air missiles, AK-47 assault rifles and Glock handguns, prosecutors said.
The case is USA v. Henareh, 1:11-cr-00093-JSR-1, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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