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Four South Florida residents have been charged for their involvement in violations of the Arms Export Control Act for illegally shipping or attempting to export defense materials to Venezuela, federal authorities announced Tuesday.
Their various schemes included a Venezuelan Air Force officer, a former Venezuelan Air Force pilot, the owner of a Davie aircraft parts business, and co-conspirators in Venezuela and Spain, according to authorities.
Alberto Pichardo, 40, of Weston – a Venezuelan Air Force officer who was responsible for the oversight of the Venezuelan Military Acquisitions Office in Doral – was charged with engaging in two separate conspiracies to violate the Arms Export Control Act and two counts of having violated the act, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer and FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Xanthie C. Mangum said.
Victor Brown, 55, of Hialeah – who bought and sold aircraft parts from an office in Hialeah Gardens – was charged with engaging in a conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act and 18 counts of having violated the act, authorities said.
Business owner Kirk Drellich, 49, of Davie and former Venezuelan Air Force pilot Freddy Arguelles, 37, of Pembroke Pines were both charged with engaging in a conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act, according to authorities.
Authorities said co-conspirators in Venezuela and Spain told Pichardo and Brown and another conspirator called “A.R.” of the defense articles the Venezuelan Air Force wanted to buy. At various times conspirators including Pichardo and Brown met with Venezuelan Air Force officials about the defense items, authorities added.
Drellich was the owner of and president of SkyHigh Accessories Inc. of Davie, a business that bought and sold aircraft parts. Drellich provided numerous defense parts including two cooling turbines, pressure switches, and liquid oxygen converters to Brown and another conspirator called “A.R.”, which they then shipped out of the U.S. to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, according to an information document laying out the charges against Drellich.
Brown twice traveled from Miami to Madrid, Spain to meet with some of his co-conspirators, according to authorities.
Pichardo and Arguelles attempted to buy defense articles from someone who does business in Fort Lauderdale, and used that person’s services in an effort to illegally export the defense items, authorities said.
Pichardo sent three separate lists to the person – referred to as “S-1” – about F-16 parts that the Venezuelan Air Force sought to purchase, and he and Arguelles met with S-1 to discuss the sales three times in the fall of 2009, authorities said. Two of their meetings involved another co-conspirator referred to as “K.L.,” according to authorities.
Pichardo’s lists of requested items included F-16 ejection seats, munitions, radar equipment and oxygen masks for the Venezuelan Air Force; aircraft parts the air force wanted for its VF-5s, OV-10 Broncos, Tucanos, and Super Pumas helicopters; and unmanned aerial vehicle engines, authorities said.
Pichardo, Arguelles and Brown were expected to make their initial appearances in federal court Tuesday, and Drellich is expected to make his first appearance there on July 3, authorities said.