Accused Arms Dealer Trades Guns for a Guitar

Now he's packing a tune.

Packouz contends he left the company in July 2007 and never spoke to Diveroli again. (He won't say why he left.) Then, on March 27, 2008, both men were thrust into the national spotlight by a story on the front page of the New York Times. A team of reporters had discovered AEY fulfilling its contract with Chinese ammo purchased from aging caches in Albania, a formerly Communist country legendary for corruption. AEY had shipped $10 million of Chinese ammo to the U.S. government.

(In fact, the Albanian official who allegedly helped repackage the ammo and might have been key to the AEY case was found dead — possibly murdered — on a remote dirt road this past September 12.)

Under a 1989 federal law, selling Chinese armaments to the U.S. government is illegal, so this past June 20, a federal grand jury charged Packouz, Diveroli, and two others with 70 counts of fraud and conspiracy. According to the indictment, AEY's contract required it provide "serviceable and safe ammunition," but a government inspector in Afghanistan found that some of the ammo was "unsafe for transportation" because of corrosion and a termite infestation in the packaging.

David Packouz traded guns for a guitar.
Jaqueline Carini
David Packouz traded guns for a guitar.

Packouz would say little about his involvement with AEY except the following: "I was only at AEY until July of '07. And throughout the time that I was there, all the quality of all the ammunition was fully functional and fully acceptable. We had done inspections on the ammunition and the stuff that shipped while I was there."

Packouz is out on bond now and keeping busy with massage therapy and consulting work — "nothing in the arms business," he says. He's also taking care of his daughter and polishing off a stoner-rock/grunge music album with humanitarian themes, called MicroCOSM. He's even rented out a studio and hired a group of professional musicians, including a classically trained pianist. The songs, written over a period of eight years, are, according to Packouz, "meant to tell a story of love spanning outwards."

The record, a cross between Pink Floyd and Nirvana, is layered with harmonies and full of sweet, vaguely silly sentiments such as "We are all human/We are all family/We must care for each other/We all share this humanity" and "Love is why we're alive/Love is how we survive." Asked about the contrast between the song's message and his involvement in a violent global trade, he gets prickly: "I just want to point out that we were arming the people fighting the Taliban. I don't think the fight was wrong."

Packouz's producer, lead guitar player, bassist, and engineer is Fernando Perdomo. "I'm not political at all," he says. "The David I know is a totally normal dude who writes great songs and has a great album out. Everything else does not bother me ... [except for the fact that] he has a bad habit of clearing his throat on the mike in the studio."

When MicroCOSM is released in a few weeks, Packouz will almost certainly be the world's first and only rocker-cum-masseur-cum-arms-dealer. On his MySpace page, Packouz says he dreams of winning a Grammy. He'd like to tour, but by the time the record hits stores, if it hits stores, he might be in prison.

"I try not to do anything that's even remotely risky," he explains. "Especially now that I have a child and that I'm a family man, I realize it's not worth taking these big risks. Which I did. So that, in general —" Packouz's voice drops into a lower register, and for the first time he sounds afraid: "I'm just trying to keep my nose clean, so to speak. No matter how bad things seem. To look at the moment ... there's always ... you can always strive for better things ... down the road."

Listen to David Packouz's MicroCOSM at www.myspace.com/davidpackouz.

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