Exporters get jail for computer exports to Iran
Massoud Habibion and Mohsen Motamedian, both U.S. citizens, and their Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company Online Micro LLC, were sentenced Wednesday in the District of Columbia in connection with a scheme to illegally export millions of dollars worth of computer-related goods from the United States to Iran through the United Arab Emirates.
U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle sentenced Habibion to 13 months in prison for conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and to defraud the United States. She also sentenced Motamedian to three years supervised release for obstruction of justice. Both Habibion and Motamedian pleaded guilty to these charges on Feb. 16.
Under the terms of their guilty pleas and related civil settlements with the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security and Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, Habibion and his company have agreed to forfeit $1.9 million seized from Online Micro’s bank accounts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
In addition, Habibion and Online Micro are denied export privileges for 10 years, although the denial order will be suspended provided that neither Habibion nor Online Micro commit any export violations during the 10-year probationary period and comply with the terms of the criminal plea agreements and sentences. Motamedian separately agreed to a $50,000 monetary penalty to settle a civil charge that he solicited a false statement to federal law enforcement agents.
Habibion and Motamedian were arrested on a criminal complaint in California on April 7, 2011. The defendants and their company were later indicted on April 21, 2011.
The Justice Department said Habibion and Online Micro willfully conspired with a company operating in Dubai and Tehran to procure U.S.-origin computers and export the equipment from the United States to Iran via Dubai without first obtaining licenses or authorizations from OFAC.
In May 2007, Online Micro bought 1,000 computer units from Dell for about $500,000. “Later that year, Dell began receiving service calls concerning Dell computer units from individuals in Iran, and after conducting an internal investigation, suspended Online Micro from placing further orders with Dell,” the Justice Department said.
Starting Nov. 9, 2009, and continuing through December 2010, Habibion and Online Micro conspired with a company operating in Dubai and Tehran to procure U.S.-origin computer-related goods and export those goods to Iran via the UAE. During the conspiracy, Online Micro and Habibion sold to that company and exported from the United States numerous shipments of computer-related goods, worth a total of more than $4,904,962, with knowledge that the majority of those goods were destined for Iran.
Online Micro also caused shipper's export declarations to be filed with U.S. Customs and Border Protection falsely identifying the ultimate destination of the goods as the UAE, the Justice Department said.
“During the investigation, Habibion and Motamedian told a government cooperator to lie to U.S. law enforcement officials about the transactions. Specifically, the defendants told the cooperator to lie about Iran being the true ultimate destination for the goods and counseled him to tell U.S. law enforcement agents that the computer-related goods remained in Dubai,” the department added.
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