To friends and family, Reza Tabib had seemed an inspiration, proof an immigrant could launch life anew. The son of an Iranian judge, Tabib was a flight instructor at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif. He spoke four languages and could be counted on for level-headed advice, and a laugh.
Agents with the Pentagon's Defense Criminal Investigative Service discovered Tabib had another talent: procuring restricted aircraft and missile parts for the Iranian military. On May 7, a federal judge in Santa Ana, Calif., sentenced Tabib, 52, to two years in prison for trying to help Iran acquire components for the F-14 Tomcat fighter jet, the swept-wing plane once used by the U.S. and flown by Tom Cruise's character in Top Gun. The pro-Western Shah of Iran, before his fall in 1979, had acquired 80 of the jets. Today Iran is the only country flying the aging planes, and the U.S. forbids anyone from shipping F-14 hardware to the Middle Eastern nation.