Federal investigators say two companies from our area were illegally shipping equipment to Syria and Iran.
Indictments released on Wednesday accuse one of those companies, based in Susquehanna County, of illegally shipping chemical weapon detectors to Syria
The head of that company, Harold Rinko of Hallstead, has agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy that he acquired products for chemical weapon detection here in the United States and then worked to send them to Syria.
It is forbidden for these products associated with chemical warfare to be shipped to that country.
Examples of the type of products sold:
The feds allege Rinko worked through his company, Global Parts Supply in Hallstead, to export the illegal goods to Syria.
The federal indictment was unsealed today after being kept secret since November of 2012.
To neighbors, Harold Rinko was far from some international conspirator. They knew him as an avid hunter, a guy who loved to fish.
They knew he ran some kind of parts business out of his home along Steam Hollow Road but certainly not parts associated with chemical warfare.
"I find it hard to believe, his nature, it's just not him. It just doesn't seem like him," said neighbor Mary Bray.
But Rinko is accused of using his company, Global Parts Supply, to acquire items used to detect specific chemical weapons, or to protect yourself from them.
The feds say Rinko worked with two foreigners to send the goods to three other countries. From there they were shipped on to Syria, which is strictly forbidden by the U.S.
The indictment shows his co-conspirators paid Rinko big bucks.
A chemical weapon scanner alone went for $15,000.
Another detector sold for $18,000.
One probably wouldn't expect to find a global parts supply company on a dirt road in rural Susquehanna County, but it is that company listed at the address that the federal government alleges Rinko ran and used as a front to get those products from here in the U.S. to Syria.
"You would never think of something like that would go on and never once expected that of Harold," said neighbor John Bray.
The Brays live next door to Rinko. Despite the charges against their neighbor and his guilty plea, they find it all hard to believe the man they know was connected in any way to Syria and its chemical war.
"I never would have thought that Harold would have been doing something like that intentionally, put it that way," said Tim Bray.
"Extremely surprised, it's crazy. He's such a nice man. Ready to help, great neighbor, the kind of person you want to have as a neighbor, but can't believe it," said Mary Bray.
The second company from Schuylkill County is accused of illegally sending equipment to Iran.
Hetran Inc, an engineering and manufacturing plant in Orwigsburg and its chief executive officer, Helmut Oertmann, are facing charges related to illegally sending a piece of equipment to Iran.
The U.S. attorney says this company and its CEO shipped an $800,000 machine to Iran.
The feds accuse Hetran, INC. near Orwigsburg and CEO Helmut Oertmann of violating U.S. law by trading a horizontal lathe, a machine used to make parts for cars and airplanes.