Local man busted supplying Iranian air force

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ATLANTA —

A local man admits to being part of an arms network feeding a nation at odds with the United States.
     
Federal agents showed Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland the evidence they found busting dealer Michael Edward Todd.

The case involves spare parts for jets and helicopters. The buyer was Iran, a government-listed sponsor of terrorism since the mid-1980s. Investigators said supplying an enemy to keep their aircraft flight-ready is just as dangerous as selling it weapons.

Strickland got a look at the hardware involved in the case at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina. 

Pilot Capt. Brian Harp showed Strickland Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467.  The unit is home to a dozen Super Cobra AH-1W attack helicopters.  Strickland asked Harp about facing an enemy similarly armed.
         
"They would be a considerable threat. Would we not be able to deal with them?  We'd be able to deal with them, but it is a threat nonetheless," said Harp.
         
The U.S. sold Iran more than 200 Cobras 40 years ago when the nation was an American ally.  The now-hostile Iranian Air Force has about 50 of the aircraft left.  Investigators said Todd helped supply the necessary parts.
         
"Michael Todd is an arms dealer," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Brock Nicholson.
         
Nicholson showed Strickland what Todd was dealing.  He took from the ICE evidence room rod-end bearings to the helicopters and a bearing roller for the F-5 fighter jet.  The F-5 is also American-made and still flown by Iran.
         
Nicholson showed Strickland an Iranian purchase order acquired during the investigation.  It included the requirement: "Country of origin should be U.S.A."
         
"The hated Americans produce the equipment that they need to do what they do," said Nicholson.
         
Prosecutors said the supply hub responsible for sending the military parts to Iran was a non-descript warehouse at the Macon airport.
         
Acting on intelligence from whistleblowers and separate investigations, agents discovered Todd used middlemen in France, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to funnel the parts to Iran.   He used his connections as an aircraft mechanic to acquire them.
         
"What we had to do was basically come in and cut the head off a snake," said Middle Georgia U.S. Attorney Michael Moore.
         
"It should make anybody angry when they hear that our military intelligence and parts that are made for military use end up in foreign hands and used against American citizens," he said.
         
Helicopter avionics expert Cpl. Lisa Hayter told Strickland black marketers make her job more difficult, as the wait for the spare parts can be weeks long due to tight supplies.
         
"Our troops need these parts to fly successful missions, especially on deployment, and we can't even get them.  So, for someone to get ahold of these parts and give them somewhere else, it is extremely frustrating," she said.
         
Todd is serving time at a federal prison in Arkansas.
         
Agents said Iran paid double the asking price. They are looking for Todd's profits, which are thought to be more than $160,000.