By Tony Hanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A man from Minsk, Belarus, has been sentenced in federal court in Philadelphia for running a sophisticated smuggling operation that authorities say threatened — and still threatens — national security and our troops around the world.

Siarhei Baltutski (a/k/a/ Sergey Boltutskiy), 41, was sentenced yesterday to 15 years in prison.  Authorities say Baltutski and others illegally exported to Belarus thermal imaging weapons scopes and other night-vision targeting devices.

US attorney Zane Memeger says this was a significant crime.

“Basically, when you are fighting overseas at night and engaging with other combat troops, and you need to take certain actions, (night vision scopes) may give you an advantage over the other side.  And if those items are being utilized against American citizens or our troops, then that is a significant problem,” Memeger tells KYW Newsradio.

Although some devices were seized before export, investigators say hundreds were shipped to Belarus.

Authorities say five others in the local cell have pleaded guilty. Four have been sentenced to prison and one is awaiting sentencing.

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