Man charged with plotting to export weapons

September 10, 2010 10:27:34 PM PDT
A citizen of Ivory Coast has been charged in federal court in San Jose with plotting to export illegal handguns, tear gas grenades and ammunition from the United States to his West African country.

Nguessan Yao, 55, was charged in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in San Jose on Thursday with conspiring to export defense articles without a license from the U.S. Department of State.

He was arrested in New York on Thursday and made an initial appearance before a magistrate there today, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of San Francisco.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Yao agreed during today's hearing to be transferred to San Jose to face the charge. No date has been set for the transfer, she said.

An affidavit filed with the complaint by ICE Special Agent Terrance Stebbins alleges that Yao was part of a conspiracy to buy 4,000 handguns, 200,000 rounds of ammunition and 50,000 tear gas grenades to send from the United States to Ivory Coast, which is officially known as Cote d'Ivoire.

The affidavit said that Yao and several unnamed citizens of Ivory Coast were shown 500 pistols, 100,000 rounds of ammunition and 1,000 tear gas grenades by undercover agents in New Jersey on Aug. 31.

On Thursday, the conspirators sent a $1.9 million payment to a bank account in San Jose that was controlled by undercover agents, Haag said.

The export conspiracy charge carries a possible maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if Yao is convicted.

Kice said she could not comment on the purpose for which the weapons were wanted.

Ivory Coast suffered a civil war between 2002, and 2007 and United Nations peacekeepers are currently seeking to prevent further conflict. The country is subject to a UN arms embargo requiring all nations to prevent weapons from reaching it.


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