United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Iranians Held in United States

Iranian officials have called for the release of at least 19 Iranians jailed in the United States. According to Reuters, 11 of the men have U.S. citizenship.
 
More than 100 people have reportedly been charged or convicted of violating Iran sanctions since 2008. Most, however, have served their sentences and have been released. The following profiles detail charges against some of the Iranians held in the United States.
 
Khosrow Afghahi, Tooraj Faridi, and Bahram Mechanic
 
Charges: A 24-count indictment was unsealed on April 16, 2015 charging four corporations and five individuals with facilitating $24 million in illegal exports of high-tech microelectronics to Iran between 2010 and 2015. The goods had potential military applications.
 
Three of the individuals who were charged – Bahram Mechanic, Tooraj Faridi, and Khosrow Afghahi – were acting as agents of the Iranian procurement network in the United States. Mechanic is a dual citizen who has lived in America for more than 30 years.
 
Mechanic and Afghahi own the Iran-based company Faratel as well as the Texas-based sister company Smart Power Systems, headed by Faridi. The FBI accused the companies of designing and building “uninterruptable power supplies for various Iranian entities.” Mechanic and Afghahi allegedly shipped goods to a company in Taiwan, which then sent them to Iran via Turkey.
 
Sentence: The defendants face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. 
 
Arash Ghahreman
 
Charges: On June 17, 2013, Ghahreman was arrested for planning to export military-capable technology to Iran via a front company in Dubai.
 
Ghahreman came to the United States in 2007 and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Between December 2012 and June 2013, he acted as part of an Iranian procurement network to send electronic equipment to Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions. Ghahreman coordinated with Koorush Taherkhani, based in Iran, and Ergun Yildiz, a German national acting as the head of the UAE front company intended to facilitate the exports.
 
Federal authorities were tipped off when Ghahreman contacted Northrop Grumman about purchasing gyrocompasses. Undercover agents posing as suppliers communicated with Ghahreman for several months, during which he agreed to purchase four gyrocompasses and 50 electron tubes. He was arrested after meeting the undercover agents in San Diego to finalize the deal.
 
According to Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin, Ghahreman “used a front company to illegally send U.S. goods and technologies - including those used in military applications to Iran.” He added that the violations “have the potential to harm U.S. national security objectives.”
 
Sentence: On Apr. 23, 2015, Ghahreman was convicted on convicted on seven of the nine counts in his indictment. On Aug. 27, 2015, he was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison.

Nima Golestaneh
 

Charges: A warrant for Golestaneh's arrest was issued in December 2014, but it is unclear exactly when he was detained. Turkey extradited Golestaneh to Vermont on Feb. 12, 2015. He was charged with “four felony counts of wire fraud and single counts of computer fraud and conspiracy to defraud a Vermont company.”

Between April 2012 and May 2013, Golestaneh allegedly remotely accessed the company software of a Vermont aerodynamics company with the intent to steal a copy of the company's proprietary software. The software is used for aerodynamic analysis and design and is typically sold for $40,000 to $800,000 per unit.

Sentence: On December 2, 2015, Golestaneh signed a plea agreement charging him with Wire Fraud and Fraud in Connection with Computers. He faces up to 20 years in prison for the prior charge and up to five years in prison for the latter charge. As of Jan. 12, 2016, Golestaneh was still awaiting sentencing.

 
Hamid Reza Hashemi
 
Charges: In December 2012, Hashemi was charged with conspiring to send high-grade carbon fiber to Iran. The material can be used to make machines that enrich uranium.
Hashemi is a dual U.S. and Iranian citizen who resided in Iran. He ran a company in Tehran that allegedly tried to obtain carbon fiber technology, and was arrested upon entering the United States in December 2012. He was charged with collaborating with a European company between March and April 2008. During this time, he arranged for the shipment of the fibers from the United States to Iran via Europe and Dubai.
 
Sentence: In November 2013, Hashemi pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 46 months in prison.
 
Vahid Hosseini

Charges: Hosseini was charged with exporting more than $250,000 in high-tech items through the United Arab Emirates to Iran and for laundering money wired to him from multiple overseas accounts.
 
Hosseini, a trained engineer, left Iran some 25 years ago. From at least January 2008 to July 2013, he operated a business known as Sabern Instruments from his home in Reston. “Some of the items he shipped to Iran were found to be capable of adding value to a nuclear weapons program and to other nuclear related applications and research areas,” according to the FBI.
 
Sentence: Hosseini pleaded guilty on March 6, 2014, and agreed to forfeit $50,000 as part of his plea in the case. On June 13, 2014, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release.
 
Nader Modanlo
 
Charges: Modanlo was arrested and indicted in June 2010. He was charged with export violations and money laundering while working with Russian officials to launch Iran’s first earth-observation satellite.
 
Modanlo is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Iran. From January 2000 to Nov. 27, 2007, Modanlo and seven others evaded sanctions to hide Iran's involvement in illegal activities. He used a front company in Switzerland to conceal the activity.
 
Sentence: On Dec. 20, 2013, Modanlo was sentenced to eight years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to forfeit $10 million. He appealed the case in 2014, but it was dismissed.

Ali Saboonchi
 
Charges: On March 4, 2013, Saboonchi was indicted on charges of conspiracy and seven counts of illegally exporting manufactured industrial products to Iran.
 
Saboonchi set up Ace Electric Company and coordinated with Arash Rashti Mohammad, based in Iran, to send products to Iranian businesses between 2009 and 2013. Sanboochi allegedly shipped the products to entities in the United Arab Emirates and China, which then sent the goods to Iran. The products included stainless steel filter elements and liquid pumps and valves, which are used in the oil and gas industry.
 
Sentence: Saboonchi was convicted on Aug. 11, 2014. On Feb. 2, 2015, he was sentenced to two years in prison and one year of supervised release.
 
Seyed Amin Ghorashi Sarvestani
 
Charges: Sarvestani was arrested on Oct. 3, 2012. He was charged with helping export electronic equipment used for satellite communications and data transfer from the United States to Iran.
 
Sarvestani allegedly arranged to ship goods to Iran via the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he owned and managed two companies: Innovative Technology Systems and Skylinks FZC.
 
Sentence: Sarvestani pled guilty and was sentenced in August 2013 to 30 months in prison and a $100,000 fine. He also had to forfeit $54,000.
 
His lawyer has urged the judge to change the sentence since exports of the products that Sarvestani shipped became legal three weeks after his sentencing. He has also argued that Sarvestani exported to a private company, not government or military entities, and that the exports were in line with U.S. foreign policy goals of promoting Internet freedom for Iranian citizens. “I am neither an activist nor politically motivated,” he said in an email to The Associated Press in 2014.  “I am simply a citizen of the Earth who believe the Internet is a true miracle in mankind history.”
 
Amir Abbas Tamimi
 
Charges: Tamimi was arrested on Oct. 5, 2012 on charges of exporting helicopter parts from the United States to Iran via South Korea.
 
Tamimi is an Iranian citizen. From 2011 to 2012, he arranged exports of parts that could be used in military helicopters for reconnaissance, tactical insertion, and missile platforms.
 
Sentence: Tamimi pled guilty, and on Nov. 15, 2013 he was sentenced to 46 months in prison.

 

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