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Oregon Gun Dealer/Runner? Claims Links to Iran and Israel

13 09 2010 Oregon gunshop owner indicted as gun dealing probe takes international turn

Federal prosecutors investigating a Canadian man caught with a large cache of guns at a Blaine storage locker have indicted the man’s partner in a McMinnville, Ore., gun shop, alleging the men conspired to deal high-end firearms.
The indictment filed last week shed little light on Oliver King, a would-be gun dealer now the subject of an international investigation. Writing the court, King’s own attorney describes him as having had multiple contacts with the CIA, the Department of Defense and other national security agencies prior to his arrest.
Federal prosecutors in Seattle now contend King conspired with his business partner, Amir Zarandi, to illegally deal guns inside the United States. The indictment stops short of alleging anything beyond unlawful dealing of guns to others within the U.S. and, on King’s part, making false statements to border guards during more than a dozen trips across the Canadian border.
During a court appearance Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Roe said the government is seeking information from Danish and Canadian authorities related to King’s activities. Without offering further insight, Roe said the documentation remains “very important in the government’s prosecution.”
In court documents, prosecutors contend Zarandi previously told investigators King had claimed to be a member of the Israeli intelligence agency. An Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who’d interviewed King years before said the Iran-born Canadian previously claimed to have served in the Israeli army.
Interpol records show King to have been convicted of fraud, assault and weapons charges while living in Denmark, according to previously sealed statements by investigators made public earlier this week. His girlfriend, the government claims, said the 35-year-old had been out of work for a while, was living on credit and found himself heavily in debt to gun manufacturers.
Born Hamid Malekpour, King was arrested May 19 after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents followed him from the Canadian border to the McMinnville gun shop — an empty office, it later turned out — then back to the Ferndale storage unit, according to charging documents.
In subsequent searches of his car and the storage unit, investigators seized 27 firearms, including a .50 caliber sniper rifle and several semiautomatic assault rifles. Also taken was a large cache of ammunition and several high-end riflescopes.
King, a resident of Canada since 2003, had been issued a firearms dealer license there previously. But, federal prosecutors contend, that license was revoked in 2007 in part because King could not account for his weapons stocks.
Prosecutors claim Zarandi obtained a firearms dealer license to legitimize the McMinnville business.
Asked about the guns, King said he was a “consultant” and was transporting firearms for clients to shoot at a nearby range, the ICE agent told the court. He went on to claim the guns belonged to Zarandi, not him.
Following King’s arrest, agents interviewed an ATF investigator who’d reviewed the federal firearms dealer license awarded to Zarandi.
The ATF investigator said King accompanied Zarandi to the interview. In an odd turn, King answered most of the questions, participating to such a degree the agent asked whether he was applying for the license.
“When asked about his citizenship, King initially denied being Canadian and said he lived in Seattle,” the AFT investigator recalled. “When asked if he ever served in the U.S. Army, he told (the ATF investigator) that he had served in the Israeli Army and that he originally was from Israel.”
Zarandi was ultimately issued a license to deal firearms, though it’s not clear from court documents whether that license was ever delivered to the business, McMinnville Hunting and Police Supplies.
In October 2009, the landlord for the business told the ATF that the space leased to the company had not been occupied for three months and was being paid for with Canadian cashier’s checks. A search of the office following King’s arrest failed to uncover the federal firearms license logbook, any export licenses or firearms, the ICE agent told the court.
Speaking with authorities, Zarandi described King as a consultant whom he met at an Amsterdam airport, according to court documents. King presented himself as knowledgeable of the gun business and interested in exporting guns to Canada.
The man told investigators King had knowledge of ammunition being moved from Iran to Israel, the ICE agent told the court, and that King had talked to him about export strategies to avoid shipment tracking.
Zarandi also said King had claimed to be with the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, the ICE agent told the court. Summarizing the case, the ICE agent argued that King “routinely misrepresented his purpose and status when entering the United States.”
At the time of his arrest, King was facing possible deportation from Canada and the revocation of his refugee status because he’d failed to disclose his criminal history on his refugee application in 2001.
Danish officials — who listed King as having been born in Germany rather than Tehran — reported King’s criminal history “includes convictions for forgery, violence against another, assault, offenses against public authorities, fraud, extortion and violation of the Danish weapons act,” according to court documents.
Writing the court in a routine request for information, King’s former attorney — who withdrew from the case in July — asked that the government release all information gathered about his client.
Included in that memo was an opaque request for any records related to King’s apparent contacts with a litany of government agencies, including the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense.
“For a variety of reasons, Mr. King has had contact with persons employed by the United States … on multiple occasions prior to his arrest in this matter,” attorney Michael Martin said in court documents.
King and Zarandi were charged with unlawful dealing of firearms and conspiring to do the same in the indictment filed late Thursday. King has also been charged with unlawful gun possession and making false statements to a government agency.
Zarandi is expected in court Thursday, when he will be arraigned on the new charges. Unlike King, he has not been jailed in the case.

Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 206-448-8348 end_of_the_skype_highlighting