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Jury Told of Wiretaps on Costa Mesa Supplier

July 22, 1987|JANE APPLEGATE | Times Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES — Federal agents relied on court-authorized wiretaps to obtain evidence against a Costa Mesa military manual supplier charged with violating federal export control laws, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.

George M. Posey, owner of Newport Aeronautical Sales, was indicted in March on charges of violating the U.S. Arms Export Control Act and Anti-Apartheid Act by shipping restricted technical manuals, mostly about military aircraft, to South Africa and Argentina.

In his opening statement to the jury, Assistant U.S. Atty. Brian Hennigan said recorded conversations between Posey and others indicate that he knew that the military manuals seized by federal agents at Los Angeles International Airport in February could not be exported without permission from the State Department.

Hennigan also said Posey knew that no military supplies or information can be exported to South Africa.

Hennigan said a wiretap installed in Posey's conference room picked up a coded conversation between Posey and a South African man in August, 1986. The code was broken after FBI agents, armed with a search warrant, seized code books and other materials from Posey's office in February.

Meeting with Botha

In one coded conversation, Hennigan said Posey was told to get ready to meet "the big guy" from South Africa who was bringing a list of materials sought by the South African military.

The "big guy" was Joseph Botha, whom Hennigan described as a member of the South African military.

In an interview during a break in the trial, Posey said Botha is not a military man, but a bookstore owner from Johannesburg.

"It was my interpretation all through this that items in the public domain are not subject to export restrictions," said Posey, 38.

Posey, who has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, said the manuals were not classified, so he did not violate any federal laws by exporting them. Posey's company frequently obtained technical manuals and other material by filing requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Meanwhile, Posey said he has lost 50% of his business since the federal charges were filed. He said his requests for information are no longer being honored by the military.

Vendetta Alleged

"The military has had a vendetta with my client since the 1970s," Posey's attorney, Steve Morrison, told the jury. Morrison said the government is angry with Posey because after Posey had trouble obtaining military manuals, he sued the Navy in civil court and won.

Hennigan denied any government vendetta against Posey.

And U.S. District Judge Ferdinand F. Fernandez warned Morrison not to raise his vendetta theory before the jury again.

Hennigan said the government's wiretap also recorded conversations between Posey and Edward James Bush, an Agoura man arrested in February at Los Angeles International Airport with boxes of military manuals and airline tickets to Argentina, Brazil and South Africa.

Bush pleaded guilty to one charge of violating federal export laws and has agreed to appear as a government witness against Posey.

Posey is the first person to be charged with violating the Anti-Apartheid Act, which prohibits trade in munitions to South Africa, according to U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner. If convicted on all counts, Posey faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of $2.2 million.

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