WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A South Florida jury has acquitted a man on charges of attempting to illegally broker uranium ore shipments to Iran.
The jury in West Palm Beach federal court reached its verdict Monday in the case of Patrick Campbell of Sierra Leone after a weeklong trial. Campbell had faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The case hinged on a Florida-based undercover U.S. agent who posed as a uranium buyer acting on behalf of Iran. Prosecutors said Campbell agreed to supply enough ore to yield 1,000 tons of purified uranium for nuclear fuel or weapons. Campbell denied the charges.
Campbell's arrest was the culmination of a 15-month investigation when an undercover agent posted an ad to buy yellowcake uranium on a Web site based in China. Through the ad, Campbell got in touch with the agent, who pretended to be "an American broker representing the interests of individuals in Iran." Campbell told the agent there was no problem transporting the uranium from Sierra Leone.
Over the next several months, the two discussed the deal by phone and e-mail. Earlier this month, Campbell obtained a visa to travel to the U.S., claiming to be a social worker who was taking part in a U.N. conference, according to the Department of State database. Ahead of his visit, he sent a contract for the yellowcake uranium sale by email to the undercover agent. He told the agent on Monday that he would have the samples with him.
Authorities arrested Campbell when he arrived Wednesday at Kennedy Airport. At the time of his arrest, he had a plane ticket bound for Miami where he would meet his buyer.