A South African man described as a “petty crook who got in over his head” was sentenced on Thursday to 20 years in prison for conspiring to smuggle military weapons into the United States.
Christiaan Dewet Spies, 37, was convicted in July 2007 of multiple charges including conspiring to defraud the United States and importing firearms, Reuters reports.
Spies, ringleader Artur Solomonyan of Armenia and others brokered a deal with a US government informant from 2003 to 2005 and promised to deliver high-powered weapons such as rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
But they only delivered one machine gun and seven other assault weapons.
“Mr Spies was not a practiced or professional arms dealer but was a petty crook who got in over his head,” US District Judge Richard Holwell said upon sentencing him in Manhattan federal court.
Prosecutors had sought a sentence of life in prison.
During the hearing, Spies apologized to the judge and said he had participated in the scheme to gain a US permanent resident card and avoid returning to South Africa.
“I was incapable of delivering the big weapons and hundreds of guns,” he said.
During the trial, prosecutors showed photos of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and other weapons from Armenia and Chechnya that Solomonyan and Spies had offered to sell. Solomonyan was convicted in July 2007 and sentenced to 22 years in prison in March.