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Iran Contra Conspirator Joseph O’Toole Charged with Gun Smuggling

28th June 2010
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Colonel charged with gun smuggling

By Laura Rozen | Politico | 6/28/10
[Image: ak47-300x184.jpg]A retired U.S. Air Force colonel charged in the 1980s in an Iran-contra related weapons smuggling case has been indicted in a U.S. federal court in Miami with conspiring with an Israeli aeronautics engineer to illegally export 2,000 AK-47s to Somalia.
The June 17 indictment against Joseph O’Toole, 79, now based in Claremont, California, was unsealed today. POLITICO earlier Monday reported on the indictment of his Israeli co-defendant, Chanoch Miller. Miller, an Israeli citizen and former executive Israeli defense firm Radom Aviation, was arrested in Miami on June 18th and his indictment was unsealed on June 21.
O’Toole’s wife, reached by POLITICO at their home in Claremont, California Monday, said she had no comment.
O’Toole , then described as a Santa Ana-based aviation consultant, was charged in 1989 with conspiring with a controversial Israeli self-described former Mossad agent, Ari Ben-Menashe, and a Connecticut resident Richard St. Francis, with trying to sell three U.S. C-130 air cargo planes to Iran. But the charges against O’Toole were dropped in 1991 during the first Gulf War.
Beginning in April, according to the indictment, Miller and O’Toole conspired to obtain and transport hundreds of AK-47s from Bosnia to the northern Somalian city of Banderal, using false end user certificates of Chad, in violation of U.S. arms export control laws. Somalia is under a UN arms embargo. But the transport services source they contacted turned out to be an informant for the U.S. Customs and Immigrations Enforcement (ICE) agency, the indictment describes.
“On April 15, 2010, O’Toole sent an email to an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement confidential informant (hereafter CI) and asked if CI had Antonov 12 or similar line [aircraft] available for two charter flights from Bosnia to Africa to lift 12 tons on each flight for two round trips, landing in Africa “to unload mil equipments” and return to Bosnia for a second trip,” the indictment reads.
“On April 21, 2010, O’Toole sent an email to the CI and advised the CI that the cargo would be Boxed AK-47s, 6 to 7.6 tons, and that the CI could choose to use AN26 or AN12 aircraft from Tuzla Bosnia to Banderal, Northern Somalia and that payment would be made by wire transfer or cash before departure.”
“On April 21, 2010, O’Toole sent an email to the CI and advised that he has enough cargo for 100 flights if the first flight is successful.”
“On April 28, 2010, O’Toole sent an email to the CI and also sent a copy of the email to CHANOCH MILLER and advised that CHANOCH MILLER, who was the buyer in Israel and who would sign the contract and pay the CI, had accepted the price at least verbally but was hoping to get the first flight done sooner.”
On June 15, 2010, the indictment states, Miller wired $116,000 from an Israeli bank to a Broward County, Florida Wells Fargo branch to pay for the weapons and air transport as well as a $2,000 commission for O’Toole, the seven-count indictment said.
The case against Miller and O’Toole was brought by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo Ferrer and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Walleisa.
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How did Israeli arms dealer Chanoch Miller fall for the trap set for him by U.S. officials in Central America and end up in a Florida jail?

By Yossi Melman | Haaretz | July 16, 2010
Evidence at the trial of Israeli arms dealer Chanoch Miller, who is in a South Florida jail, indicates that U.S. customs agents forced him to fly to the United States against his will. In other words, he was practically kidnapped.
Miller is waiting for the start of his trial on charges of conspiring to export arms from the U.S. to Somalia, money laundering and violating the UN Security Council embargo, which prohibits the sale of arms to the failed African state.
News of his arrest and the charges against him have already been published in the Israeli press, but recently new details about the incident have emerged. Arrested at the about same time as Miller was his partner in the arms trade, retired U.S. Air Force colonel Joseph O’Toole, from the San Diego area.
Miller testified that he was been doing business with O’Toole for over 15 years. O’Toole has a history of involvement in shady arms deals. In the late 1980s, he was tried (the case was dropped in 1991 ) for his part in the sale of arms to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, in what became known as Iran-Contra affair.
For a $4,000 commission, O’Toole introduced Miller to a third person, who was supposed to arrange the leasing of planes to fly around 2,000 of Kalashnikov assault rifles to start with, from Bosnia to northern Somalia.
The three planned to arrange 100 flights to Somalia.
Unfortunately for Miller, the “third person” was an informer for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and followed his handlers’ instructions to set a trap for the two men. At a court hearing on July 2, Blake Schnitker, an agent from the Pentagon’s criminal investigations department, who oversaw the investigation, testified. Schnitker admitted that Miller was flown to the U.S. from Panama against his will, and without knowing that a trap had been set for him.
His testimony and the indictment show that through O’Toole, and later on his own, Miller exchanged e-mail messages with informer, whose name the authorities are not disclosing. The informant told Miller that he had 200 Kalashnikov rifles in his Florida warehouse and another 500 in a warehouse in Panama.
Miller asked him to send the 200 rifles to Panama and from there, to fly all 700 rifles to Somalia. In return, Miller wired $116,000 from his Israel Discount Bank account to the informant, who was under the supervision and control of the American law authorities.
At the request of the informer, the two arranged to meet in Panama. Miller flew from Israel to Canada and from there to Brazil and eventually to Panama. But upon his arrival on June 18 at the Panama airport, immigration officials there informed him that he was barred from entering the country. Schnitker said in his testimony that everything was coordinated between U.S. and Panamanian authorities.
At the airport, there were two U.S. Customs agents already in position, named Skidmore and Al Dangelis, who were following Miller. Court documents list no first name for Skidmore. Miller asked to be flown to Israel, but the Panamanian authorities informed him he could only fly back to the destination he had come from, Brazil. His Israeli passport was confiscated and he was delayed for several hours at the airport.
Afterward, they gave him a boarding pass issued by American Airlines, which flies to Brazil via Miami. Miller said he did not have a U.S. visa but Panamanian government officials reassured him that everything would be okay. Lacking any other choice, Miller agreed, still without suspecting he was being followed.
Skidmore and D’Angelis boarded the plane with Miller. When they landed at the international airport in Miami, they arrested Miller and transferred him for questioning by Pentagon agents.
On his confiscated laptop, the American agents found ample documentation, including blank documents from the Ministry of Defense of Chad – forgeries intended to fool authorities into believing the weapons were destined for Chad and not Somalia.
There was also evidence found on the laptop that indicated Miller was also planning to sell arms to Guinea. His lawyer, Daniel Friedman, requested Miller’s release on bail, but the prosecutor objected and described him as dangerous to the public. The judge ruled that he continue to remain in detention.
Miller, 54, studied aeronautical engineering at the Technion under the auspices of the officer candidate academic studies program, and served in the airplane design unit of the Air Force at its headquarters in Tel Aviv’s Kirya compound. He was discharged with the rank of captain and together with two other partners set up Radom, a company that worked with the Defense Ministry and the air force, and which also worked abroad, including upgrading airplanes belonging to the Chad Air Force, among other things.
Three years ago, Miller sold his share of Radom and became an independent arms dealer. He is married and is the father of three daughters and a son. One of his daughters traveled to Florida in order to be near him and visit him in jail, twice a week. The Israeli consul in Miami, Mazal Saidiyan, also visited him in jail, but beyond that, it does not appear that Israel intends to intervene on his behalf.
Miller faces up to 75 years in jail and a $2 million fine. His attorney and family declined to comment on the contents of this article.
These were Kalashnikovs from Bosnia being shipped to Somalia in 2010.

It would be useful to know where they were originally manufactured, and which army or "terrorist" group they once belonged to.

With regard to O'Toole and Chanoch Miller, there are several possibilities:

i) this was a freelance operation gone wrong;

ii) this was a sanctioned off the books operation accidentally stumbled upon, and then busted by, unusually enthusiastic U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents;

iii) this is a distraction, a sacrificial offering to allow a much bigger deal to go down;

iv) it's all exactly as reported. :trytofly: