Two Bergen County men were charged in a scheme to sell guns believed to have belonged to the family of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced Thursday.
Carola M. Quirola, 55, of New Milford, and 74-year-old Fort Lee resident Howard A. Blumenthal were charged along with David Phillip Ryan, 48, of Miami, FL, and Karlo Christian Sauer, 42, of Pittsburgh, PA.
Federal prosecutors allege the foursome worked together to try to find a New Jersey buyer for the "Hussein Family Firearms," appraised at $250,000 to $350,000, authorities said.
"During the course of the conspiracy, seven firearms were shipped to New Jersey for viewing by potential buyers," said a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors said law enforcement received information in April that guns believed to have belonged to Hussein family members were up for sale and thought to be stored in Florida.
The firearms were shipped from Florida and kept at a Ridgefield sporting goods store, a federal compliant alleges. The four met at a Fairview restaurant to discuss the deal and Quirola offered to sell the guns to an undercover federal agent for $160,000, according to court documents filed in the case.
Authorities seized several weapons, including a Coonan Arms .357 semiautomatic pistol with gold inlay and a "Q.S." medallion, believed to be the initials of Saddam's son, Qusay Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti, according to court papers. In October, the Iraqi ambassador confirmed to U.S. investigators that the guns were property of the war-torn nation.
Documents show agents also recovered two Korth .357 magnum revolvers, two Cosmi 12-guage shotguns, a Chinese State Factories type 64 pistol with Arabic writing and a Yemeni flag on the grip, and a Llama semiautomatic .45-caliber ACP pistol marked with "Q.S."
Federal prosecutors charged the four with one count each of conspiracy to transport stolen firearms and conspiracy to sell and receive stolen property. Ryan is also charged with unlawful mailing of firearms.
Blumenthal and Quirola appeared in Newark federal court Thursday. Ryan made his initial appearance in the Southern District of Florida and Sauer appeared in Pennsylvania. Prosecutors did not detail how the guns were moved from Iraq or how the men allegedly obtained them.