Patrick Campbell, a 33-year-old man from Sierra Leone, was arrested on Wednesday at John F. Kennedy airport in New York City and charged with brokering a sale of yellowcake uranium to be shipped to Iran.
Upon his arrest, authorities found samples of the uranium hidden in the soles of Campbell’s shoes packed in his luggage, according to the criminal complaint filed on Friday.
“Campbell assisted the agents in removing the uranium from beneath the inside soles of his shoes and plastic bags containing uranium were recovered from two of Campbell’s shoes,” the complaint said.
Campbell had allegedly responded to an ad in May 2012 posted on the Chinese-based website alibaba.com, and had agreed to sell 1,000 tons of yellowcake uranium to an American broker representing interests in Iran. What Campbell did not know was that the broker was, in fact, an undercover U.S. agent, who posted the ad as part of a sting operation. Campbell was on his way to Miami to meet the supposed broker and provide uranium samples for testing when he was arrested in New York.
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Authorities also recovered a contract for the sale and delivery of the uranium on a portable thumb drive at the time of Campbell’s arrest.
Campbell made his first court appearance in the case on Thursday in New York. He said that he was affiliated with a company that mined and sold uranium, gold, and diamonds, and that he had engaged in communications with a buyer for uranium 308, or yellowcake uranium, meant for Iran. The intended shipment was to amount to 1,000 tons of yellowcake uranium and was to be hidden in a mix with other types of ore.
The complaint describes yellowcake uranium, and states that, when refined, “yellowcake becomes enriched uranium and can be used in the manufacture of nuclear fuel and be used in nuclear weapons.”
If convicted, Campbell faces up to 20 years in jail and a $1 million fine for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.