Ara Dolarian, who was arrested May 15 by federal agents, has been charged with illegally brokering the sale of military-grade arms and munitions, money laundering, and conspiracy, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced Monday.
Dolarian, 58, is scheduled for a detention hearing today at the federal courthouse in Fresno. He is a former sculptor and artist with a history of financial dealings that ended up in civil court.
If convicted of unlicensed arms brokering, Dolarian faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
“Homeland Security Investigations’ national security priorities include the investigation of violations of the arms export and money laundering control laws of the United States,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, HSI Special Agent in Charge. “Illegal arms brokering represents a threat, not only to U.S. national security but to the security of the international community.”
State Department Denied Dolarian Licenses
According to court documents, Dolarian was the owner and president of Dolarian Capital Inc. (DCI), an arms brokering company operating in Fresno; Washington, D.C.; and Sophia, Bulgaria.
Dolarian is a U.S. citizen and a former Fresnan who now lives in Sophia, Bulgaria.
Beginning in 2013 and continuing through 2014, the U.S. Department of State denied Dolarian’s company licenses to broker international arms deals. But during that time period, Dolarian allegedly attempted to broker a multi-million dollar transfer of high‑explosive bombs, rockets, military-grade firearms, and aircraft-mounted cannons from Eastern Europe and South Africa to the government of Nigeria.
In furtherance of this arms deal, it is alleged that in June 2014, Dolarian executed sales contracts with Societe D’Equipments Internationaux, a French arms brokering company acting on behalf of Nigeria, for the purchase and transfer of high‑explosive bombs, rockets, military-grade firearms, and aircraft-mounted cannons worth more than $8.5 million.
Dolarian Allegedly Used Shell Accounts to Obtain $8.3 Million
Dolarian submitted a brokering application with the U.S. State Department in June 2014 for the proposed deal with Nigeria. This brokering application, along with a later one, was never approved by the State Department.
Without approval from the State Department, Dolarian allegedly accepted approximately $8.3 million from Nigeria and its broker, SEI. These funds were, in part, funneled by Nigeria through a purported furniture company in Hong Kong. Then they were routed through numerous shell accounts held by Dolarian and others.
Feds Seize $6 Million in Dolarian’s Accounts
Soon after obtaining the funds, Dolarian used them to pay off personal expenses, such as federal and state tax debts, and to buy a BMW SUV. In February 2015, the federal government seized over $6 million that remained in Dolarian’s accounts, prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Grant B. Rabenn and Jeffrey Spivak, and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Christian Ford of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Expert Control Section are prosecuting the case.