To his colleagues, Army Lieut. Colonel Wayne Gillespie seemed a straight-arrow soldier. A West Point graduate, he had served tours in West Germany and Viet Nam. Since 1982 Gillespie, 46, has been assigned to the Army Materiel Command in Alexandria, Va., where he worked on military projects with the U.S.'s NATO allies. But, according to FBI agents who arrested him last week, he was also part of a seven-member smuggling ring that conspired to ship antitank missiles to Iran, a country that has not legally received U.S. weapons since the takeover by Ayatullah Khomeini in 1979.
The FBI began closing in on the small band of smugglers last March, when Undercover Agent Richard Witkowski, posing as an arms dealer, held a meeting in Orlando with Charles St. Clair, a Californian who claimed he wanted to aid Iran in its war with Iraq. Witkowski later met with St. Clair's partner, Paul Sjeklocha, a California-based science writer. Sjeklocha allegedly told the agent he had netted up to $8 million in arms deals over the past two years and presented Witkowski with a "shopping list" of weapons that included Sidewinder, Sparrow, Harpoon, Phoenix and French-made Exocet missiles. In June, Witkowski signed a contract to provide 1,140 TOW surface-to-surface missiles, supposedly by stealing them. At $8,000 a piece, the missiles would cost $9.1 million.
Enter Colonel Gillespie. Sjeklocha had the soldier fly to Orlando to inspect the weapons. According to an FBI affidavit, Sjeklocha told Witkowski that he had "used Gillespie before in France and Germany to check items for him." The colonel examined one of the missiles and took down the serial and lot numbers, explaining that he would match the codes with those listed in an Army manual to see if the missiles were legitimate. A 29-year Army veteran, Gillespie was planning to retire this year and go into full-time business with Sjeklocha.
Last week Agent Witkowski learned that Sjeklocha and two of his accomplices were returning to Orlando. They apparently planned to load the missiles on a 747 they had leased in Miami and take them to Iran. The FBI arrested Sjeklocha and one associate in an Orlando hotel room and nabbed four other alleged conspirators in California. Colonel Gillespie was arrested at his home. At week's end St. Clair was still at large. This bust, in the eighth smuggling case in the past year, came on the heels of the unrelated arrests last month of seven other smugglers for attempting to ship fighter-plane parts to Iran.