|By John Ellis and Pablo Lopez, The Fresno Bee|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
It wasn't until a military-grade ammunition shipment showed up in the
His neighbors, it turned out, were international arms dealers.
"I thought they were doing tea," Zylka said. "I was freaked out, totally freaked out, by the entire situation."
That day, Zylka started trying to learn more about his office neighbor. But he never discovered that much about the company and its owner,
For years, it seems that Dolarian operated below the radar in
That changed late last month when the website Buzzfeed ran a lengthy profile on Dolarian and the world of international arms dealing. The story detailed several Dolarian weapons and ammunition deals, specifically focusing on his dealings with a Bulgarian arms-manufacturing operation.
Now, a Bee investigation has traced Dolarian's life from aspiring artist to struggling financier to international arms dealer with a million-dollar home and a company website that advertises Soviet T-72 tanks, rocket launchers, assault and infantry rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and used Russian pistols.
Court records state Dolarian has been dealing arms for most likely a decade. His company found enough success to buy a
"Arms dealing can be very lucrative, depending on how it is structured,"
Smith said in an interview this month "the deals that (Dolarian) did were profitable. He did deals. The company made money."
There have been challenges, too. Dolarian has sued -- and been sued -- over arms deals allegedly gone bad. One of those cases still is pending in
The executive director of a Bulgarian arms manufacturing company told Buzzfeed that he no longer will deal with Dolarian.
"I don't speak to him," Hristo Ibouchev, executive director of the arms manufacturer
Farah wrote that arms dealing "is a fairly vicious and ruthless world ... it can be a very risky business, with betrayal often at hand."
Dolarian also is under federal criminal investigation for violating arms trafficking laws, according to court documents and federal law enforcement sources. The investigation is ongoing. No charges have been filed.
The risk can go beyond financial and legal issues. "Moving in on other people's turf is a good way to get killed," Farah said.
It's all a long way from Dolarian's beginnings as a
The elder Dolarian died in