Another Venezuelan is going to prison for an airplane-parts deal that violated an arms embargo -- and netted a fortune for the former owner of a Mesa aviation firm.
Roy Roby, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Venezuelan Air Force, was sentenced today in Phoenix federal court to 18 months in prison, plus five years' probation.
As New Times has covered, the prosecutions of Roby and Guiseppe Luciano Menegazzo-Carrasquel, another former Venezuelan officer sent to prison for the deal, stand in stark contrast to the punishment levied against Floyd Stilwell, the Phoenix man who acted as ringleader for the embargo-violation conspiracy.
The plot began while Stilwell was still the owner of Marsh Aviation of Mesa, a company he'd run for decades.
Just prior to an arms embargo against Venezuela ordered by President Bush because of the country's leftist leader, the late Hugo Chavez, Stilwell entered into an agreement to upgrade six old T-76 engines intended to power OV-10 Bronco light attack turboprop aircraft for the Venezuelan military. He continued pursuing the deal after the embargo went into effect in June 2006, changing the contract to indicate falsely that the airplanes were for civilian use and helping arrange shipment of the engines -- intentionally mislabeled as non-military equipment -- first to Florida and then Venezuela.
Because the deal originated before the embargo, Stilwell's lawyer, Walter Nash, told New Times last year, the government didn't go after the $1.8 million Stilwell had pocketed from the deal. Instead, following a plea deal, Stilwell was sentenced to five years' probation and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.
Nash said prosecutors showed Stilwell some leniency, allowing him to avoid prison because he was in his late 80s and in poor health. As part of the deal, Stilwell was forced to relinquish control of his aviation firm. Now his daughter owns it, and he still works there as a consultant.
The it-wasn't-illegal-until-later excuse didn't work for Menegazzo-Carrasquel, who in August was sentenced to 19 months in prison.
And it didn't work for Roby, who acted as Stilwell's liaison with the Venezuelan government for the deal.
Roby could have avoided punishment by staying in his home country. But he was arrested in September after flying to Miami on a family vacation. The son of an American man and Venezuelan woman, Roby lived for a few years in the early 2000s in Florida, where he has family. Supporters including his father, Jerry Walter Roby, wrote letters to U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow on behalf of Roby, describing the retired officer as a positive influence on those who know him.
Judge Snow agreed to let Roby serve the time in or near Florida, where his family members live.
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