- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Japanese national has pleaded guilty in federal court in Philadelphia to conspiracy charges involving a purported scheme to export infrared target pointer and illuminating lasers specifically configured for the U.S. military, say U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said Sotaro Inami, 30, of Tokyo, pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court after an undercover investigation into a purported scheme in which Mr. Inami conspired to export the laser systems without a license.

Mr. Boyd said the lasers — classified as U.S. munitions — are used by the military for the M-16 rifle and other weapons, and require a State Department license for export.

“The export of U.S. military laser sights is controlled for good reason — in the wrong hands, these sophisticated items pose a threat to American troops overseas. Keeping sensitive U.S. weapons technology from falling into the hands of our adversaries is a top priority for ICE and the Department of Homeland Security,” said ICE Special Agent William Reid, head of the Philadelphia field office.

Mr. Boyd said the ICE investigation into Mr. Inami and a reputed co-conspirator began in August 2003 when agents learned that the two men were attempting to purchase and illegally export U.S. military laser systems. During the next several months, he said, the men negotiated the terms of a deal with U.S. suppliers.

In phone calls monitored by agents, Mr. Inami said he knew the laser sights could not be exported without a license and that he previously had exported U.S. military items, Mr. Boyd said. The agent added that Mr. Inami noted he intended to have his shippers label the military lasers as “optical devices” so they would not arouse suspicion among authorities.

Last January, ICE agents learned that Mr. Inami was planning to come to the United States to pick up five military laser sights and to attend a weapons show in Las Vegas, Mr. Boyd said. ICE agents from Philadelphia flew to Los Angeles and arrested Mr. Inami at the airport on Feb. 17. In Mr. Inami’s backpack, Mr. Boyd said, agents found wire-transfer receipts and brochures on military laser sights.

On July 27, Mr. Boyd said, a federal grand jury in Philadelphia indicted Mr. Inami on one count of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act.He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

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