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Courtesy of TheOutdoorWire.com

An FBI sting operation that led to the arrests of 22 executives and employees of companies in the military and law enforcement products industry shook day two of the 2010 SHOT Show in Las Vegas. After a 30-month investigation, the FBI swooped in to arrest 21 targets at the industry’s biggest event of the year.

All were charged with attempting to bribe a foreign official in an attempt to win a multi-million dollar contract to outfit a security force for the defense minister of an African country. But, there was no African country – only an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign procurement agent.

Twenty-one defendants were arrested in Las Vegas Jan. 21. One defendant was arrested in Miami. The indictments stem from an FBI undercover operation focused on allegations of members of the military and law enforcement products industry engaging in schemes to bribe foreign government officials.

The 16 indictments represent the largest single investigation and prosecution against individuals in the history of DOJ’s enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), a law that prohibits U.S. persons and companies, and foreign persons and companies acting in the U.S., from bribing foreign government officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business.

The indictments were returned on Dec. 11, 2009, by a grand jury in Washington, D.C. but not served until Jan. 21, when approximately 150 FBI agents executed 14 search warrants in locations across the country, including: Ponte Vedra Beach, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Sunrise and University Park, Florida, as well as several cities in Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Arkansas.

Additionally, the United Kingdom’s City of London Police executed seven search warrants in connection with their own investigations into companies involved in the foreign bribery conduct.

The indictments allege that the defendants engaged in a scheme to pay bribes to the minister of defense for a country in Africa. In fact, the scheme was part of the undercover operation, with no actual involvement from any minister of defense.

As part of the undercover operation, the defendants allegedly agreed to pay a 20% “commission” to a sales agent, who the defendants believed represented the minister of defense for a country in Africa in order to win a portion of a $15 million deal to outfit the country’s presidential guard.

In reality, the “sales agent” was an undercover FBI agent. The defendants were told that half of that “commission” would be paid directly to the minister of defense. The defendants allegedly agreed to create two price quotations in connection with the deals, with one quote representing the true cost of the goods and the second quote representing the true cost, plus the 20% “commission.”

The defendants also allegedly agreed to engage in a small “test” deal to show the minister of defense he would personally receive the 10% bribe. In the first “test sale” of 25 guns, and a second for 1,800 pistols, one of the defendants provided two prices, with one inflated by 20% percent. Similar pricing was provided for other products ranging from pistols and ammunition to tear gas and grenade launchers.

The indictments charge the following executives and employees of the various companies in the military and law enforcement product industries: Daniel Alvirez, 32, and Lee Allen Tolleson, 25, the president and director of acquisitions and logistics at a company in Bull Shoals, Ark. that manufactures and sells law enforcement and military equipment;

Helmie Ashiblie, 44, the vice president and founder of a company in Woodbridge, Va. that supplies tactical bags and other security-related articles for law enforcement agencies and governments worldwide;

Andrew Bigelow, 40, the managing partner and director of government programs for a Sarasota, Fla. company that sells machine guns, grenade launchers and other small arms and accessories;

R. Patrick Caldwell, 61, and Stephen Gerard Giordanella, 50, the current and former chief executive officers of a Sunrise, Fla. company that designs and manufactures concealable and tactical body armor;

Yochanan R. Cohen, aka Yochi Cohen, 47, the chief executive officer of a San Francisco, Calif. company that manufactures security equipment, including body armor and ballistic plates;

Haim Geri, 50, president of a North Miami Beach, Fla. company that serves as a sales agent for companies in the law enforcement/military products industries; Amaro Goncalves, 49, vice president of sales for a Springfield, Mass. company that designs and manufactures firearms, firearm safety/security products, rifles, firearms systems and accessories;

John Gregory Godsey, 37, and Mark Frederick Morales, 37, owner and agent of a Decatur, Ga. company that sells ammunition and other law enforcement and military equipment;

Saul Mishkin, 38, owner and chief executive officer of an Aventura, Fla. company that sells law enforcement and military equipment;

John M. Mushriqui, 28, and Jeana Mushriqui, 30, director of international development and general counsel/U.S. manager of an Upper Darby, Penn. company that manufactures and exports bulletproof vests and other law enforcement and military equipment;

David R. Painter, 56, and Lee M. Wares, 43, chairman and director of a United Kingdom company that markets armored vehicles; Pankesh Patel, 43, managing director of a United Kingdom company that acts as sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries;

Ofer Paz, 50, president and chief executive officer of an Israeli company that acts as sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries; Jonathan M. Spiller, 58, owner and president of a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. company that markets and sells law enforcement and military equipment;

Israel Weisler, aka Wayne Weisler, 63, and Michael Sacks, 66, owners and co-chief executive officers of a Stearns, Ky. company that designs, manufactures and sells armor products, including body armor;

John Benson Wier III, 46, president of a St. Petersburg, Fla. company that sells tactical and ballistic equipment. Each of the indictments allege that the defendants conspired to violate the FCPA, conspired to engage in money laundering, and engaged in substantive violations of the FCPA. The indictments also seek criminal forfeiture of the defendants’ ill-gotten gains.

The maximum prison sentence for the conspiracy count and for each FCPA count is five years. The maximum sentence for the money laundering conspiracy charge is 20 years in prison.

Three of the defendants in the case work for unnamed British companies, another for an Israeli company, with the remainder either working privately or for companies in the U.S.