Pennsylvania man admits to exporting lab equipment to Syria

By Jim Boyle | Sep 18, 2014

A Susquehanna County, Pa., businessman admitted in federal court Wednesday to conspiring to send chemical weapon-detecting technology to Syria.

Harold Rinko, 72, of Hallstead, Pennsylvania, appeared before Senior District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik in Scranton and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally export laboratory equipment, including items used to detect chemical warfare agents, from the United States to Syria, in violation of federal law.

During the hearing, Rinko said that he conspired to export items from the United States through third party countries to customers in Syria, without the required U.S. Commerce Department licenses.

According to statements signed by Rinko, the conspirators prepared false invoices that undervalued and mislabeled the goods being purchased and also listed false information as to the identity and geographic location of the purchasers of the goods.  The documents indicate that the items would be shipped from the United States to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, and, finally, Syria.

According to the grand jury indictment that was filed in 2012 and unsealed in April 2014, the items allegedly included:

  • a portable gas scanner used for detection of chemical warfare agents by civil defense, military, police and border control agencies;

  • a handheld instrument for field detection and classification of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals;

  • a laboratory source for detection of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals in research, public safety and industrial environments, a rubber mask for civil defense against chemicals and gases;

  • a meter used to measure chemicals and their composition;

  • flowmeters for measuring gas streams;

  • a stirrer for mixing and testing liquid chemical compounds;

  • industrial engines for use in oil and gas field operations; and

  • a device used to accurately locate buried pipelines.

Rinko faces a potential maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, and a three-year term of supervised release. His accused co-conspirators are Ahmad Feras Diri, age 39, and his brother, Moawea Deri, age 36, a Syrian citizen. Ahmad Diri was arrested in London on March 14, 2013, and faces extradition to the United States in connection with the charges. Moawea Deri remains at large and is considered a fugitive.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement and assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd K. Hinkley and Trial Attorney Mariclaire Rourke with the Department of Justice, National Security Division, Counterespionage Section.

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