In June 2005, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Brian Bucaro got the big break he needed. ICE got a tip that Arif Ali Durrani, the internationally renowned arms dealer Bucaro had been investigating, was being deported from Mexico, and Durrani would have a layover in Los Angeles on his way to Pakistan. This was the chance Bucaro and his ICE colleagues needed to apprehend Durrani, and that is exactly what they did. Less than a year later, Durrani was convicted in a U.S. court, and his network for providing illicit arms to Iran no longer exists.
For more than 20 years, Arif Ali Durrani engaged in the trafficking of U.S. military components. In 1987, he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years for illegally exporting HAWK missile parts to Iran. He was later deported from the United States. But after his deportation, he settled in Rosarito Beach, Mexico where he resumed his arms exporting business.
Durrani had been the subject of two federal investigations since his release from prison, and he was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant from 1999, charging violations of the Arms Export Control Act.
In November 2004, Special Agent Bucaro initiated a new investigation of Durrani’s most recent activities. Bucaro used just about every trick in the book to build his case. He served almost 100 subpoenas, conducted vehicle and aerial surveillance, utilized electronic vehicle tracking devices, as well as pen registers and “trap and trace” devices that let investigators examine phones and identify the phone numbers for both incoming and outgoing calls.
Bucaro uncovered that Durrani was acquiring U.S. military parts by using American front-men. By January 2005, Bucaro had identified and located Durrani’s two key co-conspirators, one of whom is a former U.S. Naval commander and military intelligence officer.
Bucaro later learned that Durrani had conspired with his front-men to unlawfully export military aircraft parts from the United States to the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Belgium. The illegal exports included parts used on the J85 military turbine engine, which powers the F-5 fighter—the workhorse of the Iranian Air Force—as well as parts used on the T55 engine, which powers the CH-47 Chinook military helicopter, also used by the Iranian Army. According to Durrani’s business records, most, if not all of those parts were ultimately destined to Iran.
On June 15, 2005, Durrani was arrested upon his arrival at Los Angeles International Airport pursuant to the 1999 arrest warrant and later charged with five crimes based on Special Agent Bucaro’s investigation.
This type of prosecution can be very complex and difficult, but Special Agent Bucaro and his fellow agents built such a strong case that the jury was out very briefly. Durrani was convicted on all five counts and on June 5, 2006, was sentenced to serve over 12 years in prison.
In addition to the conviction of Durrani, Bucaro’s investigation resulted in the arrest of and guilty pleas from the two individuals acting as Durrani’s co-conspirators within the United States.
Some law enforcement officers spend an entire career without ever nabbing a “big fish.” Considering Arif Ali Durrani’s export of missile system components and military aircraft parts to Iran was a threat to national security, Brian Bucaro has clearly accomplished this feat in only his fourth year on the job, and at the age of 27. Some might say that Bucaro has now set the bar too high for himself, but based on the early returns, it appears that there are few hurdles that Brian Bucaro cannot clear.