Scranton, Pennsylvania - A British national pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to illegally export laboratory equipment, including items used to detect chemical warfare agents, from the United States to Syria, in violation of federal law. The plea follows an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement.

Ahmad Feras Diri, age 42, of London, United Kingdom, was charged November 2012. The indictment remained under seal, pending the arrest of the defendants. The indictment charged three individuals and one company with criminal conspiracy, wire fraud, illegal export of goods, money laundering, and false statements.

Diri was arrested by the Metropolitan Police in London in March 2013, and was extradited to the United States on November 15, 2015, to face the charges.

Co-defendant Harold Rinko pled guilty on September 16, 2014 and is awaiting sentencing. Moawea Deri is a fugitive living in Syria.

During the guilty plea hearing, Diri admitted that from 2003 until the date of the indictment, he conspired to export items from the United States through third party countries to customers in Syria, without the required U.S. Commerce Department licenses. According to a stipulation, the conspirators prepared false invoices which undervalued and mislabeled the goods being purchased and listed false information as to the identity and geographic location of the purchasers of the goods. According to the stipulation, the items would be shipped from the United States to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, and thereafter transshipped to Syria.

The items included:

  • a portable scanner used for the detection of chemical warfare agents;
  • a handheld device for detection and classification of chemical warfare agents and selected toxic industrial chemicals;
  • masks designed for use against chemical warfare agents;
  • meters used to measure chemicals and their composition; and
  • stirrers used for mixing, heating, combining, and testing liquid chemical compounds.

“HSI will use all resources at its disposal to prevent sensitive and restricted technology from being exported to Syria though the black market,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge Philadelphia John Kelleghan. “No good comes of illegal exports to Syria during this time of gross misgovernment and civil strife, and HSI will do all in its power as the principal enforcer of export controls to ensure that sensitive technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands in Syria. I applaud our colleagues at the Department of Commerce, along with our law enforcement counterparts in the United Kingdom, who helped us make this complex investigation a success.”

"I commend our colleagues from HSI and the United Kingdom, and the U.S. Attorney's Office, for their outstanding work with the Commerce Department on this case," said Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Carson. "Our special agents work diligently every day to pursue those who flout our export control laws and attempt to supply anyone with technology that threatens our national security. OEE will pursue violators wherever located, worldwide, and we will continue to leverage our unique authorities as the only federal law enforcement agency exclusively dedicated to enforcing dual-use and other export control violations."

The case is assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd K. Hinkley and Mariclaire Rourke, Trial Attorney with the Department of Justice, Counter-intelligence and Export Control Section (CES).
A sentence following a finding of guilty is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. No date was set for sentencing of Diri.

Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.