Pilot Indicted for Allegedly Smuggling Radioactive Material

MIAMI (AP) -- A pilot has been indicted for allegedly smuggling radioactive material from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport to the Bahamas.

Harold J. DeGregory Jr., 58, of West Palm Beach, appeared Wednesday in federal Magistrate Court in Miami after a Fort Lauderdale grand jury returned an eight-count indictment charging him with conspiracy to transport and smuggle property containing Iridium-192.

Iridium-192 has legitimate industrial uses, but it poses public health risks if not properly handled, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Ed O'Donnell said the material was used to allow a camera to X-ray metal to ensure its strength.

DeGregory is president of a Fort Lauderdale company, H&G Import Export, which owns two twin-engine aircraft.

According to the indictment, H&G Import Export transported Iridium-192 to and from the Bahamas for the Bahamas Oil Refining Company, which had acquired the material for industrial radiography from a U.S. company that legally shipped it to Fort Lauderdale.

Prosecutors said neither DeGregory nor H&G Import Export were licensed or trained to handle or transport radioactive material.

On three flights between August 2003 and Oct. 28, DeGregory failed to submit mandatory Hazardous Material Manifests and submitted false documents to U.S. Customs and Border Protection stating he was transporting cargo but omitting mention of the Iridium-192, according to the indictment.

On Nov. 2, he failed to disclose a 42-pound container of the material that inspectors found ''secreted in a wing compartment of his aircraft,'' according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

DeGregory was released after posting $50,000 bond, O'Donnell said. The pilot faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press