January 13, 2016 / 1:14 AM / 3 years ago

Factbox: Iranians facing trial or imprisoned in U.S. for sanctions-busting

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has charged over 100 people since 2008 with attempting to sell technology to Iran that could have bolstered its military and nuclear programs, violating broad economic sanctions.

Of that total, Reuters identified 12 Iranian men who remain imprisoned or who are facing charges, despite last year’s historic nuclear deal that eased many sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.

Eleven of the men, who were all born in Iran, are U.S. citizens.

Following are details of their cases based on a Reuters review of court records and interviews with lawyers and family members:

*Hamid Reza Hashemi, in his mid-50s, was charged with trying to export carbon fiber to Iran via Dubai. He was caught in a U.S. sting operation in December 2012, when he flew to the United States from Iran to meet a seller of industrial equipment.

Hashemi’s lawyers said the carbon fiber was widely available and meant for natural gas tanks. Hashemi pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison. He is scheduled to be released in April 2016.

*Reza Olangian, in his mid-50s, is in custody and awaiting trial. In 2012, Olangian met in Kiev with a man he believed to be a Russian arms broker but who was actually a U.S. government informant, according to prosecutors. He tried to buy anti-aircraft missiles he intended to sell to Iran’s military, they say. Olangian was arrested when he entered Estonia and was then extradited to the United States. Olangian pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

*U.S.-trained engineer Mozaffar Khazaee, in his early 60s, pleaded guilty to export violations in February and was sentenced to eight years in prison. 

Despite his professional success, Khazaee complained that his dual nationality was holding him back in his career with U.S. defense contractors, according to court records. As part of his application for a teaching job back in Iran, Khazaee sent an Iranian university presentations containing analyses of components for the F-35 fighter jet, court records show. In 2013, U.S. border control found technical manuals for the F-35 in Khazaee’s boxes being shipped to Iran as he prepared to move there, prosecutors said.

“He was a naïve guy,” said Saeid Amini, a lawyer who has represented Khazaee and several other of the Iranians. “He didn’t sell to anyone and he didn’t try to sell to anyone.”

*Arash Ghahreman, in his mid-40s, is serving a 78-month sentence. He had studied maritime engineering in Iran and worked for Iranian shipping companies, but left because he felt his secular outlook was hindering him professionally in Iran’s theocracy, he said in court testimony.

U.S. authorities say Ghahreman planned to send U.S.-built electronic equipment to a Dubai company run by a friend, knowing the items would eventually be shipped to Iran. Undercover federal agents were on the other end of the attempted deal. Ghahreman said he believed the items would be used in Dubai. He is appealing his conviction.

*Amir Abbas Tamimi, in his early 40s, is nearing the end of a 46-month sentence after pleading guilty to trying to buy helicopter parts for Iran. The only one of the 12 without U.S. citizenship, he is due to be released in February.

*Nader Modanlo, an Iranian-American aerospace entrepreneur in his mid-50s, is serving an eight-year sentence for helping put Iran’s first-ever satellite into orbit. A jury convicted him of brokering a deal in which Russian officials built and launched an earth observation satellite for Iran.

Modanlo has argued he was denied a fair trial because the judge had private discussions with prosecutors, including whether to allow sensitive national security information into evidence. Prosecutors say those discussions did not affect the trial’s outcome. Modanlo’s appeal is now being heard by a federal appeals court.

*Bahram Mechanic, a millionaire Houston businessman who holds multiple patents, is in jail in Texas awaiting trial on charges that he used his companies in the United States and Iran to export electronics to Iran. He denies the charges.

*Tooraj Faridi, an employee of Mechanic’s company in Houston, is out on bail. He processed orders from Mechanic’s Iranian firm, Faratel, and shipped items to Iran via Taiwan, authorities say. Faridi has pleaded not guilty.

*Khosrow Afghahi, in his early 70s, was also charged in connection with Mechanic’s case. Afghahi was a partner in Mechanic’s business in Iran, according to an April indictment. He has pleaded not guilty. “Khosrow is not a danger, not a threat, not an enemy,” said his attorney, David Gerger.

*Vahid Hosseini, 64, pleaded guilty in 2014 to illegally exporting U.S. goods to Iran through the United Arab Emirates. Over five years, Hosseini shipped over $250,000 of goods purchased from more than 60 American companies, prosecutors say.

Hosseini was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. He is serving the remainder of his sentence at home in Virginia.

*Ali Saboonchi, in his mid-30s, was convicted of export violations in 2014. Between 2009 and 2013, Saboonchi and several associates tried to export industrial parts to customers in Iran, according to an indictment filed in 2013. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

*Majid Iranpour Mobarekeh, a car salesman in his mid-40s from Oklahoma City, is serving a 51-month sentence in Arkansas after pleading guilty to shipping 450 bullet shell casings to Iran and a drug possession charge. His lawyer had no immediate comment.

Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Stuart Grudgings

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