Feds Find Emails Revealing Chinese Ammo Scam

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First Efraim Diveroli was mocked for being the only U.S. arms dealer with a MySpace page. Now it looks like the feds will rest most of their prosecution on his emails.

The feds say they’ve got a pretty good paper trail on Diveroli, the 22-year-old arms trader who was just arrested and accused of providing shoddy and illegal Chinese ammo for the Afghan Army.

You remember him? He’s the Miami party boy who inexplicably landed a $300 million U.S. Army weapons contract in January 2007. The New York Times put him on the front page back in March.

He was arrested along with several others involved with his company, AEY, Inc., including David Packouz, the AEY director and vice president; Alexander Podrizki, the company’s man in Tirana, Albania; and Ralph Merrill, who provided “financial and managerial assistance.”

They were charged with violating the Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits buying and selling weapons from certain countries.

According to the indictment released today by the U.S. attorney in Miami, Diveroli got nervous last year when his Albanian supplier emailed him some photos showing that the weapons he planned to buy and ship were clearly marked “Made in China.”

Diveroli emailed the U.S. State Department in April asking whether, hypothetically, it was OK to fulfill a U.S. Army contract with weapons from China, the indictment says.

It’s not, they told him. Not without special permission from the President.

He emailed back and asked if there was an exception for weapons that may have been sitting in Albania for 20 years, the indictment says.

The State Department emailed back and said there was no such exception.

So he had one of his financial backers, Ralph Merrill, help take care of the problem.

On or about April 25,2007, RALPH MERRILL sent an electronic communication to EFRAIM DIVEROLI and DAVID PACKOUZ, which referenced attached photographs showing methods of “cleaning wooden crates.” Attached to the communication was a photograph showing a person scraping the words “MADE IN CHINA” off of a wooden crate.

Diveroli then filled out forms for the Army indicating that the ammo was from Hungary rather than China.

The Army paid AEY more than $10 million between July and December 2007, according to the indictment, before the Times broke the story in March and his arms exporting license was suspended.

There may be more charges coming from this investigation. A spokeswoman for the ICE office, Nicole Navas, said Friday that the investigation was ongoing and declined to comment further.