Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A federal grand jury in Florida yesterday returned a six-count indictment against a Colombian citizen suspected in a scheme to export machine guns and other weapons out of the United States to a Marxist rebel group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Michael J. Garcia, who leads U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE), said Carlos Enrique Gamarra-Murillo, 53, was accused of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Mr. Garcia said the indictment charged that Mr. Gamarra-Murillo, while in Tampa, Fla., attempted to export defense articles without a license, brokered the exportation of defense articles without registering or obtaining a license, conspired and attempted to distribute 4,400 pounds of cocaine, and conspired to possess machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of crimes of violence and drug trafficking.

If convicted, Mr. Gamarra-Murillo faces 10 years to life in prison.

According to the indictment, Mr. Gamarra-Murillo served from March 2003 through April as a broker for the Colombian group — identified by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization and known by its Spanish acronym, FARC — and sought to export machine guns and other weapons to it.

The indictment said he attempted to obtain for FARC five dozen M-60 machine guns, five dozen multiple grenade launchers, 600 M-16A1 assault rifles, 600 Galil 7.62 mm assault rifles, 100 Galil 5.56 mm assault rifles, 500 AK-47 assault rifles, 150 Beretta 9 mm handguns, 2,000 40 mm grenades and 2,000 60 mm grenades. It said the weapons had an estimated value of $3.9 million.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the case in April, Mr. Gamarra-Murillo told agents that, once aircraft landed in Venezuela with the weapons, 40 percent of the payment would be made in currency and 60 percent in cocaine.

“Keeping U.S. weapons out of the hands of terrorist organizations is a priority for ICE and the Department of Homeland Security,” Mr. Garcia said. “In this particular case, nearly $4 million worth of grenades, machine guns, and assault rifles were at stake. The indictment of Gamarra-Murillo is a significant achievement in our efforts to combat narco-terrorism and the illegal arms trade.”

The State Department has described FARC as the most dangerous international terrorist organization based in the Western Hemisphere.

In an unrelated case, a California aircraft parts supplier pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in the District to illegally exporting $40,000 in military aircraft parts to China, including parts for F-4 Phantom fighters, F-5 Tiger fighters and Hawk missiles.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein said the company, Interaero Inc., knew it was dealing with a buyer from China and was aware that the buyer intended to sell the parts to Iran. Nevertheless, he said, Interaero shipped the parts without making any effort to obtain an export license.

Mr. Wainstein said the company shipped the parts between June 2000 and March 2001 without the required State Department export licenses, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act, and agreed during a hearing yesterday to pay a criminal fine of $500,000 and receive five years’ corporate probation.

Interaero, located in Westlake Village, Calif., will be sentenced Oct. 26 by U.S. District Judge John Garrett Penn.

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