Federal prosecutors in Manhattan announced yesterday that they have been secretly holding a man with dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship for seven months on charges of plotting to acquire missiles for the government of Iran.
Reza Olangian, according to a newly unsealed indictment, was extradited from Estonia in March on charges that, from his base of operations in Tehran, he tried to acquire 200 surface-to-air missiles and aircraft parts through a conduit who was a U.S. informant.
Prosecutors said Olangian worked with Iranian officials in 2007 to try to acquire 100 SAM missiles, and surfaced again in early 2012 trying to get "IGLA-S" missiles -- handheld, portable weapons that can be fired by a single person at aircraft.
A criminal complaint said Olangian was naturalized in the United States in 1999, goes by the name Ray Avancian and lives in Los Gatos, Calif., when he is in the United States. Arrested in Estonia last October, he was secretly arraigned and assigned a lawyer in federal court in Manhattan in late March.
His current lawyer, Lee Ginsburg, said he was retained by Olangian's family a month ago. "We're prepared to defend against the charges in the indictment," Ginsburg said.
In secretly recorded calls and on a videoconference, the government alleged, Olangian described plans to smuggle the missiles into Iran and remotely inspected a real SAM.
Olangian faces up to 90 years in prison on conspiracy and other charges. He will make a public court appearance on Nov. 13, officials said.