A Taiwanese man has been arrested on charges of exporting a series of prohibited items to Iran, including missile components and engines that can be used in unmanned military drones, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
Yi-Lan Chen, 40, arranged at least 30 banned shipments to Iran since 2007, according to an affidavit by a U.S. Commerce Department enforcement agent. Most involved "dual use" items that have both commercial and military applications.
"The dual use items allegedly exported in this case could easily be used in missile development and other military components," said acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman.
Arrested this week in Guam, Chen waived extradition at a hearing Thursday and will be flown to Miami to face trial, prosecutors said. Court records did not show an attorney yet for Chen, who runs a company in Taiwan called Landstar Tech.
The Commerce Department's Office of Export Enforcement field office in Miami is involved in several investigations of Iranian entities seeking to obtain banned products from the U.S.
According to the complaint, investigators learned of Chen's activities after he tried to arrange for the export of 2,000 detonators through an unnamed California company. Search warrants were obtained for Chen's email accounts from South Florida judges.
The emails revealed that Chen had shipped two P200 Turbine engines and spare parts to Iran via Hong Kong in 2007, labeling them on an invoice as "a starter for a car and wheels." The engines can be used in model aircraft but also for military drones.
Other emails described deals for seals, sealing compounds, military-grade electrical connectors and other prohibited items, according to the affidavit.
The case involved a federal undercover agent who posed as a supplier for the electrical connectors, who described in emails with Chen how he was able to get around U.S. rules regarding the embargo against Iran. Chen mentioned at one point in a December 2009 email that he didn't want to try to obtain big-ticket items.
"What we want is to do the business by means of safe and low profile then nobody gets hurt," Chen wrote, according to the affidavit.
Chen was arrested after arranging to meet with the undercover agent in Guam on Wednesday.
If convicted, Chen faces up to 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines.