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  1. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
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  3. HSI Philadelphia Investigation Lands Pennsylvania Man 70 Years in Prison for Torture, Weapons Convictions

HSI Philadelphia Investigation Lands Pennsylvania Man 70 Years in Prison for Torture, Weapons Convictions

Release Date: April 19, 2024

HARRISBURG, Pa. — An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia, FBI Philadelphia and partner law enforcement agencies resulted in a Pennsylvania man being sentenced to 70 years in prison for torturing an Estonian citizen in the Kurdistan region of Iraq in 2015 and for the illegal export of weapons parts and related services.

Ross Roggio, 55, of Stroudsburg, received the sentence April 15 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

“The extensive cooperation, information sharing and dedication shown by the law enforcement agencies involved in this investigation has been extraordinary,” said HSI Philadelphia acting Special Agent in Charge. “Roggio’s sentence stands as proof that the United States will investigate and prosecute those that break our laws and violate human rights regardless of where they are committed.”

According to the investigation, Roggio arranged for Kurdish soldiers to abduct and detain the victim at a Kurdish military compound, where he suffocated the victim with a belt, threatened to cut off one of his fingers, and directed Kurdish soldiers to repeatedly beat, choke, tase and otherwise physically and mentally abuse the victim over a 39-day period. The victim was an employee at a weapons factory that Roggio was developing in the Kurdistan region of Iraq that was intended to manufacture automatic rifles and pistols.

“The sentencing today is a testament to not only the diligent work done by law enforcement, both here and overseas, but most importantly, the courage of the victim and witnesses in coming forward,” said FBI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs. “Torture is among the most egregious crimes the FBI investigates. The FBI along with our law enforcement partners will continue to purse justice for victims of these horrendous crimes.”

In connection with the weapons factory project, Roggio exported firearms parts and tools without the required approvals by the U.S. departments of State and Commerce. He also illegally trained foreign people in the operation, assembly and manufacturing of the M4 automatic carbine.

“The sentence imposed by the court demonstrates the seriousness of Ross Roggio’s crimes and brings some measure of justice for his torture victim,” said U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam. “Violence against the dignity and human rights of any victim cannot be tolerated and our office will continue to prioritize and pursue those who would do so in violation of federal law. Ross Roggio was also convicted of United States export laws related to illegally producing firearms in Kurdistan, Iraq. Though more technical in nature, these laws are no less important and are designed to take into account human rights considerations on a larger scale, to limit access to our most sensitive technologies and weapons, and to promote regional stability. I commend all the prosecutors and law enforcement agents who worked tirelessly to bring justice in this matter.”

In May 2023, a federal jury convicted Roggio of 33 counts of torture, conspiracy to commit torture, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, exporting weapons parts and services to Iraq without the approval of the State Department, exporting weapons tools to Iraq without the approval of the Commerce Department, smuggling goods, wire fraud and money laundering.

“The illegal export of firearms parts and tools from the United States often goes hand in hand with other criminal activities, such as the charge of torture on which the jury voted to convict the defendant,” said New York Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Carson of the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement. “This sentence sends a strong message to those who wish to illegally traffic in firearms. I commend our law enforcement colleagues for their dedication to bringing justice in this case.”

Roggio was the second defendant to be convicted of torture since the federal torture statute went into effect in 1994.

HSI and the FBI investigated the torture and were joined in the investigation of the arms export violations by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement.

This investigation was conducted by HSI Philadelphia, FBI Philadelphia and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement. The case was prosecuted by the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and its National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

The Estonian Internal Security Service, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, and the Pennsylvania State Police also provided valuable assistance.

Members of the public who have information about human rights violators in the United States are urged to contact U.S. law enforcement through the HSI tip line at 877-4-HSI-TIP (877-447-4847).

Learn more about HSI Philadelphia’s mission to increase public safety in our communities on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @HSIPhiladelphia.

Last Updated: 04/22/2024
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