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Man pleads guilty to Iran gun plot

August 30, 2007|Greg Krikorian | Times Staff Writer

A West Hills man has pleaded guilty to an audacious plan to buy as many as 100,000 Uzis in the United States and sell them to officials in Iran's government.

Under a plea agreement reached this week, Seyed Mostafa Maghloubi, 49, acknowledged that he tried to obtain submachine guns and night vision goggles and ship them to Iran, in violation of U.S. laws prohibiting such transactions.

According to the plea agreement, Maghloubi's plan dated to at least October 2005 when he approached an unidentified individual and said he was interested in buying the weapons and goggles.

The individual, who was identified only as a cooperating witness for the government, brokered a meeting between Maghloubi and an undercover Los Angeles police detective who Maghloubi believed was an arms dealer.

During that meeting in February, Maghloubi said that he was interested in buying the items for Iran and that he had high-level contacts with government officials in that country, according to the plea agreement.

Through several meetings and telephone conversations, the agreement says, Maghloubi and the undercover officer worked out details of the transaction. At one point, the defendant asked the purported arms dealer if he could ship the Uzis and goggles to Dubai so Maghloubi could bring them across the border to Iran.

The discussions eventually led to Maghloubi taking delivery of three fully automatic Uzis and one pair of night vision goggles.

At all times, the plea agreement says, Maghloubi -- who was born in Iran and is a naturalized U.S. citizen -- sought to deliver the military equipment to a faction within Iran's government that is aligned with a former president who is a political foe of the country's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In that light, Maghloubi's attorney said, his client was trying "to actually try and help a rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran."

"This had nothing to do with terrorism," Deputy Federal Public Defender Guy Iversen said.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office had no comment on the plea agreement.

Though Maghloubi faces a potential maximum prison term of 20 years, the federal sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of up to 41 months. His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 26 before U.S. District Judge George H. King.

greg.krikorian@latimes.com

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