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Men Convicted For Plotting To Smuggle High-Powered Weapons

Three men were convicted in federal court Tuesday of plotting to smuggle into the U.S. high-powered military weapons, including shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47s and claymore mines.

Artur Solomonyan, Christian Dewet Spies and Ioseb Kharabadze were convicted of attempting to broker a deal with a confidential informant to import weapons from Eastern Europe. The FBI arrested them before they could travel outside the country to obtain the weapons, U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said.

According to court papers, the men had several meetings in New York City with the informant between December 2003 and March 2005. In a meeting in June 2004, the men provided a price list to the informant. In another meeting in February 2005, digital pictures of military weapons 

available in Armenia for import were provided to the informant.

U.S. Attorney Garcia said in addition to Solomonyan, Spies and Kharabadze, three other men were also convicted of illegally trafficking in machine guns and other assault weapons. Dmitriy Vorobeychik, Nikolai Nadirashvili and Levan Chvelidze sold the informant one machine gun and other semi-automatic assault weapons, which they delivered to storage facilities rented by the FBI in New York City, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale.

Solomonyan and Spies face 50 years in prison, Kharabadze faces 15 years in prison and Vorobeychik, Nadirashvili and Chvelidze each face 10 years in prison when they are sentenced on Dec. 14, 2007.