January 16, 2016
Iranian news outlets reported on January 16 that the United States released seven Iranians — Nader Modanloo, Bahram Mechanic, Khosrow Afghahi, Arash Ghahreman, Nima Golestaneh, and Ali Saboonchi —as part of a prisoner swap with Iran. The State Department later confirmed that the United States “offered clemency to seven Iranians, six of whom are dual U.S.-Iranian citizens, who had been convicted or are pending trial in the United States.” Washington also “removed any Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful.” Tehran, in turn, released four Iranian-Americans. The following are profiles of the seven Iranians.
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 – Khosrow Afghahi, Tooraj Faridi and Bahram Mechanic – 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 would have faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
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 withKoorush 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.
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 faced up to 20 years in prison for the prior charge and up to five years in prison for the latter charge. Before the swap, Golestaneh was still awaiting sentencing.
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.
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.