According to a federal indictment released this week, the two men were part of a larger group who conspired to smuggle US-made fighter jet parts worth $3 million to Iran via a scheme that involved Zargarian's Pacoima-based company, ZNC Engineering Inc., and at least two Iranian nationals: Hanri Terminassian, 55, and Hormoz Nowrouz, 56.
The two conspirators from Los Angeles got caught when they contacted an undercover Homeland Security agent who posed as plane part dealer.
"The crimes charged in this indictment are very serious threats to our national security," said US Attorney Eileen M. Decker. "As a nation, it is vital that we protect our military technology and prevent it from getting into the hands of other countries without proper authorization."
The total list of plane parts has not been disclosed, but according to officials familiar with the case, these parts could be used in F-14, F-15, F-16 and F-18 fighter jets.
The O-rings in question are basically simple rings made of rubber-like material, known for high temperature resistance combined with remarkable chemical inertness. Such rings are widespread in all sorts of machinery; one can easily find similar rings in a wide number of car parts, for instance. The federal authorities say that these O-rings have a number of military applications, including in aircraft hydraulic systems and landing gear.
"One of [our] top enforcement priorities is preventing sensitive articles like those in this case from falling into the hands of individuals or nations that might seek to harm America or its interests," said Joseph Macias, a special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles.
"The illicit trade of these kinds of items to countries that have repeatedly violated our export laws must be controlled," he added.
If convicted, Zargarian would face a maximum sentence of 115 years in federal prison and a $4.77 million fine, while Nayirian would face 95 years in federal prison and a $3.77 million fine.