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California man sought missiles for Iran, U.S. alleges

WASHINGTON – A Northern California man with dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship has been arrested in Estonia and flown to New York on federal felony charges that he tried to acquire illegal surface-to-air missiles for the government in Tehran.

Federal authorities announced Friday that Reza Olangian, a resident of Los Gatos, faces life in prison if convicted of conspiring to obtain the weapons and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

He is accused of repeatedly meeting, phoning and emailing a U.S. undercover agent disguised as someone who could provide the weapons designed to shoot down helicopters and other small aircraft.

Olangian was arrested at an airport in Estonia in October 2012 and extradited to this country in March.

On Friday, a multicount indictment was unsealed in U.S. District Court in New York. Olangian, a businessman nicknamed Ray, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1999 and traveled extensively with a U.S. passport, setting himself up with an office in Tehran.

Olangian told U.S. officials after his arrest that he had tried unsuccessfully to acquire surface-to-air missiles, or SAMs, for Iran in 2007, and that both times he was working directly on behalf of the Iranian government, said Derek Odney, a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Odney said Olangian told him that in 2007 he tried to purchase 100 SAMs “on behalf of the Iranian Ministry of Defense,” but that “ultimately, however, that missile deal was unsuccessful.”

Olangian said that in 2012 he was working for “two individuals who represented themselves” as employees of the ministry and that, after multiple meetings, “engaged” him to obtain the missiles, Odney said.

The identity of the undercover agent was not disclosed. Court documents show that he represented himself as a broker from Russia “who could supply weaponry and other items.”

At times Olangian reportedly told the agent he wanted “at least 200, minimum 200” missiles.