MANHATTAN (CN) – An Israeli electronics company must surrender communication-jamming devices that can interfere with equipment used by U.S. armed forces and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the 2nd Circuit ruled.
Alon Wallach, a former Israeli military officer, acted as CEO and chief engineer of an Israeli electronics company that made and sold jammers capable of interfering with the electronic signals used to detonate improvised explosive devices. Since these devices can also interfere with military and NATO equipment, the United States includes them a “defense article” on the government’s munitions list.
Homeland Security arrested Wallach in 2009, charging him with attempting and conspiring to export unlicensed jammers. The criminal complaint alleged that Wallach and his company, Wireless Avionics, had given a New Jersey manufacturer the necessary components to build jammers. NATO had signed a purchase order for the finished products, but the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls refused to give the New Jersey company the necessary export license because it felt the jammers could interfere with military action in Afghanistan.
Wanting to make a deal on the jammers with a third party, Wallach allegedly asked the owner of the New Jersey company to transfer the products to his possession. But the government says this other executive was a confidential government informant, who told them that Wallach was willing to sell the jammers to any willing party.
Wallach allegedly discussed possible customers in the Middle East at an undercover sting operation, leading agents to arrest him and seize the jammers.
The government dropped the charges against Wallach. In an agreement with Wallach and Wireless, the government said it would seize the 20 jammers. Three months later, it filed a civil forfeiture action against to take control of the jammers seized from the New Jersey company. Wallach objected, however, claiming that the jammers were not classified under the munitions list and “should be returned to its lawful owner that did nothing wrong.”
Agreeing with the government that Wallach’s claims were “meritless,” a federal judge ordered the forfeiture. The 2nd Circuit affirmed on Dec. 22.