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Pa. man pleads in chemical weapon lab sales to Syria

A Pennsylvania businessman has pleaded guilty in a conspiracy to sell sophisticated laboratory equipment to Syria that could be used to create chemical weapons.

Harold Rinko, 72, of Susquehanna County, operated Global Parts Supply which allegedly exported the equipment to Bashar al-Assad's nation by shipping it first to a third country, said a spokesman for Homeland Security Investigations in Philadelphia.

The announcement of Rinko's plea bargain came today after a U.S. District Judge in Scranton unsealed a 17-month old indictment. In it, a federal grand jury charged Rinko and two foreign nationals with with criminal conspiracy, wire fraud, illegal export of goods, money laundering, and false statements.

Ahmad Feras Diri, of London, was arrested by U.K. police in March 2013 and is facing extradition to the United States. Diri's brother Moawea Deri, of Syria, remains at large and is considered a fugitive. The brothers, who allegedly used Rinko as "a front," operated a firm known as d-Deri Contracting & Trading which bought scientific equipment and other goods in the United States. The materials were then shipped to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and the U.K. where they were forwarded on to Syria, according to the indictment.

Federal law prohibits sales of anything other than medicine or food to Syria without a license.

"[Homeland Security] will use all resources at its disposal to prevent sensitive and restricted technology from being exported to Syria though the black market," said Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge John Kelleghan. "No good comes of illegal exports to Syria during this time of gross misgovernment and civil strife, and HSI will do all in its power as the principal enforcer of export controls to ensure that sensitive technology doesn't fall into the wrong hands in Syria."

According to the indictment, the men prepared to ship to Syria equipment that included: a portable gas scanner used for detection of chemical warfare; 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; a high tech gas mask; a meter used to measure chemicals and their composition; flow meters 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.