El Paso judge hands down sentence for former British businessman

Tappin to serve 33 months in federal prison

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - 9:24pm

Judge David Briones sentenced British businessman Christopher Tappin to 33 months in federal prison for aiding and abetting the illegal export of defense articles.

Two additional charges of conspiracy to illegally export defense articles and conspiracy to conduct illegal financial transactions were dismissed.

Tappin pleaded guilty to the charges in November 2012, after conspiring to buy batteries to be used in Hawk Air Defense Missiles, which were to be exported from the United States to Iran.

According to federal court documents, Tappin tried to illegally buy the batteries between December 13, 2006 and January 25, 2007, but was caught before he could put his plan into action.

Tappin was living in the U.K. at the time, but investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security officials caught Tappin during a federal sting operation in El Paso.

Tappin maintained that he thought the batteries were going to be used on cars.

Tappin was extradited to the U.S. in February 2012 after surrendering to authorities in London.

He was then handed over to U.S. Marshals, and booked into the Otero County Prison in Chaparral, New Mexico.

After initially being denied bond, Tappin was released on a $1 million bond in April, 2012, but was ordered to live in Houston with his attorney, and wear an electronic tracking device.

Tappin was back in court Wednesday, sentenced to 33 months in prison, three years supervised probation and a fine of $11,357.14.

"I have accepted a plea agreement offered by the U.S. Government, and confirmed by the court today," Tappin said in a brief statement following his sentencing.

One of the prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg McDonald said he was satisfied with the sentence.

"We also sent a powerful message to persons involved in this sort of business, that we don't just stand idly by, that we do try to investigate these cases and this sort of activity," said McDonald.

As part of the agreement, Tappin will be allowed to self-surrender, which means he can turn himself in anytime on or before March 8, 2013.

Tappin also requested to be placed in the Allenwood Federal Correctional  Complex in White Deer, Pennsylvania to be closer to family.

He will eventually be allowed to be transferred to a prison in the U.K. 

Tappin's alleged co-conspirators were Robert Frederick Gibson and Robert Thomas Caldwell. Gibson pleaded guilty in 2007 and was sentenced to 24 months in prison.  Caldwell was convicted in 2007, and was sentenced to 20 months in prison.


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