Two companies in two counties in our area stand accused by the federal government of illegally shipping equipment to countries with ties to terrorism.
The investigations are separate, but the U.S. Attorney`s Office has charged the companies and their CEOs with similar crimes.
Two men, heads of different companies in two counties, have been indicted in two separate investigations through the U.S. Attorney`s Office, both involving illegal international trade.
In one investigation in Schuylkill County, federal prosecutors allege Helmut Oertmann, the CEO of Hetran, Incorporated sent equipment to Iran.
They said the company, located near Orwigsburg, shipped a 50,000 pound machine, known as a horizontal lathe that makes parts for cars and airplanes and was valued at $800,000.
At a ball park near Hetran, people said this news is a shock.
“The company`s always been run very well, the people that I know that have worked for them really enjoyed their jobs, and the people they work for, so it`s just odd,” said Scott Reichert of Orwigsburg.
The other investigation is in Susquehanna County. Harold Rinko and the company he heads out of his house near Hallstead, is accused of shipping chemical weapons detectors to Syria for thousands of dollars.
Federal investigators said Global Parts Supply sent several items, including “a portable gas scanner used for detection of chemical warfare agents by civil defense, military, police and border control agencies.”
Rinko's neighbors describe him as an outdoors-man who enjoys fishing and hunting.
“Extremely surprised, it's crazy,” said Mary Bray. “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.”
The U.S. Attorney`s Office said Rinko has already agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy.
Teresa Taylor, the attorney representing Hetran and Oertmann sent this statement Wednesday afternoon:
“Hetran, Inc., and Mr. Oertmann take this situation very seriously, and in response are fully cooperating with an ongoing government investigation surrounding the events. Hetran has taken strict remedial measures, including punitive measures against certain employees to ensure that such violations do not happen in the future. While Hetran, Inc. has always taken compliance seriously, U.S. trade regulations are highly complex and there is understandably much confusion surrounding these laws. In the nearly 50 years that Hetran has been in existence, this is the first time the company or Mr. Oertmann have ever been the subject of a criminal investigation or potential violation or fine.”
“It`s just not something you think about of something hitting this close to home, aiding terrorism or I mean you almost hope it`s just because he`s trying to make a buck,” said Bill Yazujian of Orwigsburg.
The U.S. Attorney said Oertmann has not formally agreed to plead guilty, however federal prosecutors have filed paperwork with the courts in anticipation there will be a plea deal.