A Miami Beach munitions dealer pled guilty in federal court to defrauding the U.S. government by selling banned Chinese ammunition to the U.S. Army who in turn supplied them to allied forces in Afghanistan. Efraim Diveroli of Miami Beach, is facing up to five years in federal prison after entering into a plea agreement. In exchange for pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to make a false statement, the U.S. Attorney's office dismissed the other 84 counts in the indictment. The case alleges that Diveroli violated a Chinese-made weapons embargo passed in 1998 by Congress. Diveroli, the owner of AEY, Inc. conspired with three other employees to sell the illegal munitions.
Diveroli admitted in his plea agreement that he and his co-conspirators agreed to sell the U.S. military $10.3 million of Chinese weaponry which they tried to disguise as Albania weapons. Diveroli's Miami criminal defense attorney argued for a dismissal of the indictment because the weapons were initially purchased by the Albanians prior to the embargo taking effect. However, U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard denied the motion to dismiss. Alexander Podrizki and David Packouz, both AEY, Inc. employees plead guilty in May, 2009. Ralph Merrill, the fourth co-conspirator is still awaiting trial in federal court.
The prosecution argued at the motion to dismiss that a Department of Defense regulation prohibits weapons exporters from providing weapons or munitions acquired directly or indirectly from Chinese Communist military companies. In this case, the government alleged that AEY, Inc. purchased the munitions from Albania, who had originally obtained them from a Chine weapons manufacturer. Diveroli and his co-conspirators removed "made in China" markings from the wooden crates, repackaged the ammunition and had represented that the munitions had been manufactured in Albania.
The United States government became aware of the illegal sale of Chinese ammunition back in March 2008. The New York Times reported that Diveroli misled the U.S. Army by telling them that the ammunition he was providing was obtained from former Soviet bloc countries. The munitions were used by allied forces fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. The Pentagon ceased buying ammunition from AEY, Inc. when they became aware that munitions came from a prohibited source.
Miami Beach Weapons Wunderkind Pleads Guilty to Defrauding U.S., The Miami Herald, August 31, 2009.