Headline Archives

   

PROTECTING AMERICA FROM TERRORIST ATTACK
The Case of the Undercover Missile Sting

12/19/05

Weapons dealer with the fake missile
Weapons dealer with the fake missile

Consider this scenario: a British national who had praised the attacks of 9/11/01 and wanted to sell weapons to terrorists...contacts a known extremist wanted for bomb blasts in India...gets the name of a potential buyer claiming to represent a Somalian terrorist group...travels all over Russia, the Ukraine, and Cyprus to find and order 50 shoulder-fired missiles for that extremist to use in blasting U.S. airplanes out of the sky...meets the buyer several times in New Jersey to seal the deal...and asks for payment to be wired to accounts in Hong Kong and Switzerland.

Welcome to the world of twenty-first century global crime and terror.

There's only one way to stop an international plot like this: with the same kind of global reach and sophistication—specifically, by tapping into a network of law enforcement and security partners across the globe.

Here's how the weapons dealer was caught, ultimately convicted, and sentenced to prison:

  • The missile buyer was actually a U.S. government informant who contacted us after hearing from the dealer and who agreed to help us catch the dealer in an undercover sting.
  • Our intelligence revealed that the dealer planned to export the surface-to-air missiles from Russia. Our agents flew to Moscow and met with representatives of the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, which already knew about the dealer and had begun its own investigation. A joint operation was forged.
  • When the dealer traveled to Moscow and then to St. Petersburg to meet with missile suppliers, FBI and FSB agents conducted surveillance together. At the first meeting, two undercover FSB officers posed as the suppliers...and showed the dealer what appeared to be an actual surface-to-air missile. As FBI agents listened in, the dealer bought the missile and ordered 50 more.
  • The dealer sent the faux missile to the U.S. He then met with our undercover informant four times near Newark, New Jersey, to finalize the sale. In the last meeting on August 12, 2003, he recommended our undercover buyer use the missiles in simultaneous strikes. "It will shake them," he said. "They will run. They will think the war has started." FSB agents were listening in the next room and were there for the dealer's arrest moments later.
  • At the same time, we were working with other law enforcement partners in the U.K., India, and elsewhere to run down investigative leads around the world.
  • During the trial, representatives of New Scotland Yard and the FSB testified—the first time FSB officers had ever offered testimony in U.S. federal court. The weapons dealer was convicted by jury and sentenced to 47 years in prison on September 12.

Thanks to growing global law enforcement partnerships, potentially disastrous terrorist attacks on U.S. soil were prevented...and a terrorist supporter was taken off the streets. More and more, when it comes to fighting crime and terror, it is a small world, after all.

Resources: Press Release | More counterterrorism cases and stories