Federal officials investigate exports from Pa. sporting goods stores
By KATHY MATHESON, Associated Press Writer
PHILADELPHIA- Two Pennsylvania sporting goods stores are suspected of illegally exporting weapons and doing business with individuals the government has linked to war crimes and drug trafficking, authorities said Friday.
No charges have been filed against the D&R Sports Center stores in Nanticoke and Bloomsburg or their owners, brothers Mark and Theodore Komoroski, who deny any wrongdoing.
Authorities suspect the stores have been illegally exporting binoculars, firearms and other equipment to Russia, Kuwait, Germany and Japan without the required federal license, according to court documents.
Authorities also are investigating whether the stores have done business with individuals on a Treasury Department watch list who the government says "pose an unacceptable risk of being involved with" international drug trafficking, crimes against humanity, war crimes or terrorism. Americans are prohibited from doing business with anyone on the list.
Authorities believe the stores have made eight illegal exports since February 2005 worth nearly $248,000, according to a search warrant application and affidavit filed Nov. 7 in federal court in Scranton.
Federal agents searched both stores the next day for records and documents, said John Hageman, spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Philadelphia, who declined to say what was found.
"It's still an ongoing investigation," Hageman said Friday. "There's a lot of evidence to be reviewed."
Certain sophisticated weapons and accessories, such as high-tech night vision equipment, cannot be exported without State Department permission. The affidavit alleges that D&R exported the items - in one case to a Russian special forces unit - by use of falsified correspondence and shipping documents.
The affidavit also says a bank account controlled by D&R received a Kuwaiti wire transfer from Haji Ibrahim, who is on the watch list. The affidavit, which refers to him as Ibrahim Hajji, notes he was indicted in New Jersey on suspicion of conspiracy to bring heroin into the United States.
Authorities allege that other wire transfers to D&R came from Rockman EOOD, a company on the watch list. Rockman owner Sergey Bout is the brother of Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, who is also on the list and has provided weapons to former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, rebel groups in Rwanda and the Taliban militia, the affidavit says.
Mark Komoroski said Friday that all of D&R's exports are properly licensed, and that he has never heard of Victor Bout.
"How they're linking me with this guy is totally absurd," Komoroski said.