A man was arrested in New York City’s international airport with uranium destined for Iran hidden in the soles of his shoes, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Patrick Campbell, 33, who was arrested Wednesday as he arrived at the John F Kennedy airport from Paris, is accused of trying to act as an intermediary to sell Iran 1,000 tons of purified uranium, in violation of U.S. law.
The Sierra Leone-based Campbell had been under surveillance since May 2012, when he responded to an ad on the site Alibaba.com by someone looking to buy uranium 308, or yellow cake.
The buyer was actually an undercover U.S. immigration officer.
Asked to supply 1,000 tons of uranium — disguised with other types of ore to escape detection — Campbell promised to ship the product, disguised as chromite, from Sierra Leone to the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran.
In the course of numerous conversations over telephone, Skype and email, Campbell claimed to be linked to a company that sold uranium, gold, diamonds, and chromite at the border of Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the indictment.
In order to be used as a nuclear fuel, purified uranium must be enriched.
Campbell was arrested in New York on his way to Florida, where he planned to show his “contact” some uranium samples.
The samples, wrapped in plastic bags, had been hidden in the soles of a pair of shoes in his luggage, the indictment said.
Investigators also found contact information for the sale and delivery of the uranium on a USB key.
Accused of violating US law concerning transactions with Iran, Campbell could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.
The case was transferred to a federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.