The Associated Press
MIAMI (AP) - A U.S. military contractor accused in a scheme to illegally ship nearly $300 million in Chinese-made ammunition to Afghan soldiers has agreed to a plea deal that could send him to prison for up to five years.
Under the deal, prosecutors will drop 84 counts of wrongdoing in exchange for 23-year-old Efraim Diveroli pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge. He could also be fined up to $250,000.
Diveroli was president and owner of AEY Inc., the Miami Beach firm awarded a $298 million U.S. Army contract in 2007 to provide the ammunition to Afghanistan. The contract forbade exporting Chinese ammunition, but prosecutors say the company did it anyway and claimed the rounds were from Albania.
AEY bought much of the ammunition from Albania's Military Export and Import Co., which had purchased huge amounts of Chinese ammunition from 1958 to 1974. Authorities say AEY then repackaged it to remove all traces of the Chinese manufacturer and provided the Army with written certification that the ammunition had come from Albania.
Congressional investigators also found in 2008 that AEY provided potentially unsafe helmets to troops in Iraq, failed to deliver 10,000 pistols to Iraq, and shipped inferior ammunition to U.S. Army special forces. The Pentagon and State Department have terminated or withdrawn numerous contracts with AEY over failure to perform, according to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
AEY has been suspended from future contracting with any U.S. government agency but is still listed as an active company with the Florida Secretary of State.
Two other AEY employees, David Packouz and Alexander Podrizki, have also signed plea deals with the government. A case against a fourth man, Ralph Merrill, is still pending.
Sentencing for Diveroli is scheduled for Nov. 10.