March 7, 2009 - 18:02 AMT
Armenian sentenced to 22 years in prison for arms smuggling to U.S
An Armenian convicted of conspiring to smuggle Russian military arms into the United States including rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Friday.
Artur Solomonyan, 30, was convicted as the leader of an arms trafficking operation and was found guilty of arms trafficking conspiracy and arms trafficking in July 2007 along with South African Christiaan Dewet Spies and four others.
He was sentenced to 22 years in prison in federal court in Manhattan, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan said.
During their trial prosecutors said Solomonyan and Spies were the group's ringleaders. They met with an informant from 2003 to 2005 and sold him a machine gun and assault weapons and delivered them to Los Angeles, Florida and New York.
The men also attempted to broker other deals, prosecutors said, showing digital photos of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and other weapons from Armenia and Chechnya they said were also for sale, but those deals were never completed.
The other four conspirators included three Georgians and one Ukrainian. A sentencing hearing for Spies was adjourned to a later date, Reuters reports.