In Florida, Arms Smugglers Get Off Easier Than Dope Pushers

On Wednesday, US prosecutors announced the arms smuggling convictions of a 79-year-old former US Air Force Colonel, Joseph O’Toole, and former Israeli Air Force Captain (and possible Mossad agent) Chanoch Miller, 53.

Both men were not only veterans, they had prior experience in covert arms trading—apparently with a wink and a nod from their respective governments. Miller, a Florida resident, was a founding partner of Radom Aviation, an Israeli military contractor. (Miller is pictured above.) O’Toole (pictured below) was put on trial for playing a part in the Iran-Contra affair—which was, remember, a criminal conspiracy originating from within the administration.

Haaretz has the most complete account of the caper that will soon land them in prison, which involved a plan to ship 6,000 AK-47 assault rifles from the US to Somalia. Laura Rozen has followed the case for Politico.

Here’s the official recap (from prosecutors):

[B]eginning in April 2010, [Miller asked O’Toole] to arrange for the transportation of approximately 6000 fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles from Bosnia to Somalia. The defendants used false End User Certificates [required by law for overseas arms shipments] to conceal the fact that the weapons were ultimately destined for Somalia.

The plot thickens:

To further facilitate the transportation of the AK-47 assault rifles, Joseph O’Toole contacted an individual who, unbeknownst to Toole, was working undercover for ICE Homeland Security Investigations and the [US State Department]. As the investigation progressed, Miller agreed to purchase 700 fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles from the undercover. These assault rifles were to be shipped from the U.S. through Panama and then to Somalia. Miller paid $116,000 to the undercover as partial payment of the transportation costs and commissions to O’Toole for the shipment of the 700 assault rifles.

The really crazy part? Much like the quasi-official ties of the gun runners, it also gets glossed over the US Justice Department’s triumphant press release:

O’Toole and Miller each face a term of up to 5 years in prison, followed by a term of three years of supervised release, the forfeiture of $116,000 [the partial payment from Miller to undercover agent for moving 700 rifles], and a possible fine.

Five years? That’s it? For two known arms traffickers?

These men hoped to make a fast pile of cash by shipping thousands of fully automatic rifles to one of the most violent, lawless places on the planet—a nation that is not only subject to an international arms embargo and a historic home of Al Qaeda, but also in the middle of a christ-fucking civil war!

For this they might serve five years. In Florida, where the men will be sentenced on Dec. 14, a person can get five years for holding—not selling—an ounce of weed.

The most relevant US arms trafficking statute provides a maximum penalty of up to 10 years for each violation, not to mention the penalties for other felonies the men committed in the pursuit of their plan. Needless to say, if police and prosecutors had put together a stronger case, O’Toole and Miller could’ve been locked up for the rest of their lives.

The penalty these men will face may be a joke, but there is a silver lining to the story: Those 700 assault rifles aren’t going to Somalia.

No, sir. Somebody else will just have to buy them.