Pennsylvania Man Sentenced to 70 Years for Torture and Illegal Arms Export

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HARRISBURG, PA — In a landmark case that traverses international borders and delves into the shadowy realm of illegal arms trade and human rights abuses, Ross Roggio, 55, of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 70 years in prison on Monday. The sentencing was delivered by U.S. District Court Judge Robert D. Mariani for his involvement in the torture of an Estonian citizen in the Kurdistan region of Iraq in 2015, as well as for violations related to the illegal export of weapons parts and services.

Court documents revealed that Roggio orchestrated the abduction and detention of the victim, an employee at a weapons factory Roggio was developing in Iraqi Kurdistan. Over a harrowing 39-day period, the victim was subjected to suffocation, threats of mutilation, and repeated instances of physical and psychological torment at the hands of Kurdish soldiers, acting under Roggio’s direction.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri emphasized the gravity of Roggio’s crimes, highlighting the comprehensive nature of the torture inflicted upon the victim. She also pointed out Roggio’s unlawful activities in the arms manufacturing sector, including the unapproved export of firearms components and the unauthorized training of foreign personnel in weapon assembly and operation.

This case marks only the second conviction under the federal torture statute since its enactment in 1994, underscoring the rarity and significance of such prosecutions. Roggio’s conviction on 33 counts, including torture, conspiracy, exporting weapons without proper authorization, smuggling goods, wire fraud, and money laundering, reflects a broad spectrum of criminal activities crossing ethical and legal boundaries.

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The investigation, led by the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with contributions from the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, underscores the collaborative effort required to bring such complex international crimes to light. The prosecution team, including Trial Attorney Patrick Jasperse of the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Trial Attorney Scott A. Claffee of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd K. Hinkley, navigated the intricacies of the case to secure a conviction.

The involvement of the Estonian Internal Security Service, Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, and Pennsylvania State Police further illustrates the extensive cooperation among domestic and international agencies in addressing acts of torture and the illicit arms trade.

Roggio’s sentencing not only brings closure to a disturbing chapter of abuse and illegal activity but also serves as a potent reminder of the United States’ commitment to upholding human rights and enforcing laws against torture and unauthorized arms dealings, regardless of where such violations occur.

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