Highland Park Man Agreed to Aid Taliban: Feds

Government says Oded Orbach tried to sell missiles, grenade launchers to terrorists

Oded Orbach and his wife raised two adult sons in an upscale Highland Park neighborhood. But no one could ever nail him down on how he made a living.

Some heard he sold office supplies. Others were told he was in the import-export business. Many thought he was a retired cosmetic industry executive.

But a Taliban arms dealer? That's the accusation leveled by federal authorities as part of a criminal complaint unsealed earlier this week against Orbach and five foreign nationals.

He and another American, Alway Pouryan, were arrested last week in Romania.

Orbach faces one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and one count of conspiracy to acquire and transfer anti-aircraft missiles in the wake of a sting that started in late 2010 and spanned the corners of the globe.

Authorities in Romania arrested Orbach on Feb. 10, the very day federal authorities raided his Highland Park home.

The five foreign nationals are accused of trying to move "tons" of heroin and cocaine for the Taliban through West Africa to destinations in the U.S. and Europe.

Orbach is accused of trying to sell weapons to the Taliban in West Africa so the terrorist outfit could protect its heroin labs against United States military attacks in Afghanistan.

"We eliminated an entrenched global criminal network, preventing it from moving ton quantities of cocaine, laundering millions in drug money, and trading arms to the Taliban to undermine the rule of law and kill Americans," said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.

The criminal complaint says Orbach was in charge of the financing for the weapons and "that he wanted the payments... to be placed in safe deposit boxes in different bank locations with two sets of keys to each box."

In e-mails obtained by federal authorities, he wanted $49,000 for a heat-seeking, suface-to-air Stinger missile, $87,000-$110,000 for a Javelin missile and $2,750 for a 40mm grenade launcher. He also offered to send a colleague to train the buyers how to use the equipment.

Orbach never got to finish his business, however.  According to authorities, he was dealing with undercover federal informants every step of the way.

News of Orbach's arrest sent shockwaves through his quiet, tight-knit, tree-lined neighborhood.

"It's frightening. It's very frightening," said Nina Eberhard, who lives three doors down from Orbach.

Eberhard said Orbach was one of the first people to welcome her to the neighborhood when she moved there five years ago. She aid she never got any kind of indication that he might be living the dark, secret life ascribed to him by the feds: a Taliban arms smuggler.

"It is very serious and very surprising. And very shocking...it's just horrible," she said.

Criminal Complaint: Oded Orbach (.pdf)

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