A federal court filing features a screenshot of Dolarian Capital's website.

published on May 20, 2019 - 11:44 AM
Written by Edward Smith

A former Fresno resident is facing federal charges of illegally brokering the sale of military-grade arms and munitions, as well as money laundering and conspiracy.

Ara Dolarian, 58, was arrested in Fresno last Wednesday on a criminal complaint from Homeland Security Investigations, according to a press release from the Department of Justice for the Eastern District of California.

Dolarian’s company, Dolarian Capital, Inc., is an arms broker operating in Fresno, Washington D.C. and Sofia, Bulgaria, of which Dolarian is a resident.

In 2013 and through 2014, Dolarian was denied licenses to broker international arms deals by the U.S. Department of State, according to court documents. Despite not being authorized to sell weapons, the DOJ alleges Dolarian attempted to broker a multi-million dollar transfer of high-explosive bombs, rockets, military-grade firearms and aircraft-mounted cannons from Eastern Europe and South Africa to the government of Nigeria.

Dolarian is accused of executing sales contracts in 2014 with the Society D’Equipments Internationaux (SEI), a French arms brokering company acting on behalf of the Nigerian government, for an $8.5 million deal to purchase munitions and explosives. Dolarian allegedly accepted approximately $8.3 million from Nigeria and its broker, SEI.

An application for this deal before the U.S. State Department in June 2014 was also never approved, according to the release.

Shortly after receiving the funds, Dolarian used them to pay off personal expenses, such as federal and state tax debts, and to buy a BMW SUV, according to the U.S. Attorney’ office.

The federal government seized more than $6 million from Dolarian’s accounts in February 2015.

If convicted Dolarian — who made his first court appearance Thursday — could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for unlicensed arms brokering, five years and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy and a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 or up to twice the value of the arms sold, whichever is greater.

The final determination of sentencing would be made by the court.

Before his work as an international arms dealer, Dolarian was the son of the one-time chairman of the Art Department at Fresno State, according to a Fresno Bee profile story. His mother was a local peace activist.

Dolarian studied sculpture in college, and eventually became a financier who was successfully sued for providing so-called “junk pigs” in a 2000 deal with a Midwestern meat supplier. He would go on to broker arms deals in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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