Arms smuggling suspect Cenon Rey Avelino is a money-hungry lawbreaker who knew he was committing crimes when he sold two Vietnam War-era combat jets to undercover agents last year, a prosecutor told a federal court jury today.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Williams attacked Avelino's claim that he was entrapped by a government sting operation as final arguments began in the Peace Bridge smuggling case.
Avelino, 41, of Rexdale, Ont., is accused of breaking U.S. "trading with the enemy" laws by selling a Florida businessman two combat jets Avelino obtained from the government of Vietnam. He is also charged with violating customs laws and filing false statements at the Peace Bridge, where he was arrested in November 1989.
Williams said Avelino had one motive -- "to line his own pockets" with cash.
"It wasn't a matter of the government calling the defendant. It was a matter of the defendant calling the government," Williams said. "Mr. Avelino was anxious to get this deal through. . . . He'll trade anything. That's his business."
Defense lawyer James Harrington was to give Avelino's side of the story this afternoon before the jury and U.S. District Judge John T. Elfvin. Avelino claims government agents prodded him into delivering the combat jets from Toronto, through Buffalo, to Jacksonville, Fla.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations late this afternoon, Elfvin said.
There's no doubt that the agents, playing the roles of arms buyers, told lies to Avelino, Williams said.
But Avelino would not have bought into the scheme if he wasn't trying to make money, the prosecutor said.
And it was Avelino who first offered the planes to Roy Stafford, a Florida aviation buff who acted as a government informant in the investigation, Williams said.
Avelino made false statements about his planes to shippers and customs officials because he knew it was illegal to sell in the United States aircraft obtained from the Vietnam government, Williams said.