- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Federal prosecutors charged two California men with conspiring to smuggle fighter-jet parts to Iran in a scheme they allege dates to 2009.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles said in a statement Friday that the pair worked with two Iranian nationals to break laws that restrict exports to the longtime U.S. adversary.

A nine-count federal indictment unsealed Wednesday alleged that Zavik Zargarian of Glendale tried to help one of the Iranians purchase more than $3 million worth of parts for fighter jets, including F-15s and F-18s. Their would-be supplier was an undercover federal agent.

Prosecutors also say Vache Nayirian of Los Angeles exported more than 7,000 fluorocarbon rubber O-rings, which could have military uses, including for aircraft landing gear.

To evade detection, the shipments went to other destinations in the Persian Gulf before being routed to Iran, where the national air force received them, prosecutors said.

Both defendants have been assigned court-appointed attorneys and pleaded not guilty Wednesday. The attorney representing Nayirian questioned the strength of the government’s case, given that it began seven years ago and a grand jury produced the indictment in 2014.

“Any time you have this huge delay, you wonder what’s the reason,” attorney Michael Shannon said.

Zargarian’s federal public defender did not return a call requesting comment Friday.

The indictment also named Zargarian’s Glendale-based company, ZNC Engineering, as well as Iranian nationals Hanri Terminassian and Hormoz Nowrouz.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero set a Dec. 20 trial date.

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