Russian who sought to buy rifle sights to leave US
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- A Russian man who pleaded guilty to trying to export military-grade, thermal-imaging rifle sights from the U.S. without a federal license must leave the country and pay a $7,500 fine, a federal judge ordered Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson in Cheyenne granted a request from federal prosecutor Bob Murray to cap the incarceration of Roman Kvinikadze, 32, of Moscow, at the 147 days he has already served since his arrest in Wyoming last summer.
The judge said Kvinikadze could stay in custody for up to 10 more days while he makes arrangements to leave the country.
The U.S. State Department restricts export of the sights, which allow a shooter to see a target's body heat in the dark. Although legal for civilians in the United States, the sights can have military applications.
"The U.S. export laws and restrictions help ensure that our own weapons and technologies won't be used against us or against our military members fighting overseas," said Kumar C. Kibble, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Denver. "Enforcing these export laws is a priority mission."
The judge said Kvinikadze may not have fully appreciated the potential damage to relations between the U.S. and Russia if the sights had fallen into wrong hands.
Kvinikadze "saw an opportunity for making money quickly and greed overtook common sense," Johnson said.
Federal guidelines that specified a sentence of 33 to 41 months in prison and a fine of up to $1 million were not appropriate for Kvinikadze, Johnson said.
"It would be the hope I think of all of us that you are soon back with your family and getting on with your business, which I hope will be a lawful one," Johnson told him.
Wearing orange jail clothing and shackles, Kvinikadze stood before Johnson with defense lawyer Ron Pretty.
"Your honor, I was selfish and blind, and I'm deeply sorry for all that has happened and I want to apologize for all of it," Kvinikadze said.
Court records state Kvinikadze approached an undercover federal agent about buying and exporting the sights last winter in Las Vegas at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show -- an expo for manufacturers of firearms and accessories.
In a sworn statement, Ramzi Aly, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said Kvinikadze told the undercover agent he was interested in thermal sights made by American Technologies Network Corp. The company states on its website that its sights are "ideal for nighttime hunting, force protection, border patrol, police SWAT and special operations."
Aly said the agent told Kvinikadze that the sights can't be exported to Russia.
"Upon hearing this, Kvinikadze stated he did not care how he received the weapon sights, whether with or without the required export paperwork," Aly wrote, noting that Kvinikadze suggested the undercover agent set up another company in a more friendly country and then ship the weapon sights to Russia from that location.
The agent stated that Kvinikadze had a Russian friend with him at the show when he met with the undercover agent. During the meeting, Kvinikadze's friend said in Russian to tell the agent that they needed 3,000 of the sights that can cost around $10,000 each, depending on features.
Aly said Kvinikadze instructed the undercover agent to send the sights to Prague, Czech Republic, and then to Russia. Kvinikadze wired $1,000 to an undercover bank account in Cheyenne in April as a good-faith payment, the agent wrote.
Kvinikadze flew from Russia to Denver in late June then traveled to Wyoming to inspect the sights and finalize the purchase, authorities said. He was arrested in Wyoming.
A federal judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania last year sentenced another man to two years in prison after he was convicted of trying to export the same type of sight to Belarus, part of the former Soviet Union.