Iranian arms dealer fate sealed in Philly

OLD CITY - December 2, 2009

Federal agents set up a so-called internet storefront at the U.S. Customs House at 2nd and Chestnut Streets.

From here, they reached out halfway around the world to nab an arms dealer in Iran, supplying Iran's military with high tech components for what they believed was imminent war with the U.S.

Video surveillance shows the moments before Amir Ardebili was arrested.

It was the end of a five year investigation.

Federal agents lured him from his home in Iran to a meeting in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

Until this moment, they had been communicating with him by phone and email from the electronic storefront in Philadelphia.

The government says Ardebili was illegally trying to buy electronic components for missile defense systems and for Iran's aging fleet of F-4 fighter jets.

Ardebili told the undercover agents they were preparing for war with the U.S.

As part of the sting, Ardebili wired money to a bank in Wilmington, Delaware.

That landed the prosecution of the case in the lap of the U.S. Attorney's office in Wilmington.

They say the investigation is ongoing as agents chase down more leads from Ardebili's laptop.

"There are a number of transactions that are undisclosed on the defendant's laptop," U.S. Attorney David Weiss said.

This is just one of hundreds of similar cases being investigated by the government worldwide.

The government says Iran and other countries are determined to get a hold of sensitive military technology.

"This is serious business, this is going on all the time, this not a flash in the pan," Assistant Secretary of I.C.E. John Morton said.

This was a long, painstaking investigation lasting five years.

Ardebili was arrested two years ago. He pled guilty in May and will be sentenced later this month.

He faces 19 counts, each of which could carry a potential jail term of 20 years.

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