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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit
03/07/2013

Maryland man indicted in plot to export industrial products and services to Iran

GREENBELT, Md. — A Maryland man was indicted Thursday on charges of conspiring to export, and exporting, American manufactured industrial products and services to Iran. This indictment follows an investigation by the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore field office.

A federal grand jury indicted Ali Saboonchi, 32, a U.S. citizen of Parkville, Md., and Arash Rashti Mohammad (Rashti), 31, a citizen and resident of Iran. The indictment was returned March 4 and unsealed March 7 upon Saboonchi's arrest.

The five-count indictment alleges that from November 2009 to present, Saboonchi and Rashti conspired to evade the Iran Trade Embargo by exporting American manufactured industrial goods and services to Iranian businesses. Rashti, located in Iran, had Saboonchi in Maryland create and operate Ace Electric Company for the purpose of obtaining goods to be sent to Iran. Rashti, who operated businesses in Tehran, Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), solicited purchase orders and business from customers in Iran for industrial parts and components manufactured in America, including:

  • two cyclone separators, which are used in pipelines to separate impurities such as sand from liquids, for $2,114.53;
  • six thermocouples, which are used to measure temperatures of liquids and gasses in industrial applications in the chemical and petrochemical fields, for $1,284;
  • 10 stainless steel filter elements, which are used primarily in the oil and gas industry and can be used in water plants, hydrocarbon plants and nuclear plants, for $151.53;
  • four bypass filters, for $1,911.03;
  • three flow meters, which are used primarily in industrial applications to measure the flow of water but could be adjusted to measure other liquids and gasses, for $6,224.88;
  • three actuator springs, which are used to control the flow rate of a liquid, for $112.07;
  • numerous industrial parts, including hydraulic valves and connectors, for $7,067; and
  • liquid pumps and valves, which have oil, gas, energy, aerospace and defense applications, for $2,320.48.

The indictment alleges that Rashti obtained price quotes and paid for these items, and took delivery of most of the goods, which he then shipped to co-conspirators in UAE and in at least one case, China. Rashti would repay Saboonchi for the goods and further arrange for the entities in the UAE and China to send the goods on to him and his customers in Iran. The defendants did not obtain authorization to export the products.

Saboonchi faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy and on each of four counts for illegal export to an embargoed country. Saboonchi has his initial appearance today in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt and is detained pending a detention hearing scheduled for March 13 at 2 p.m. Rashti is believed to be living in Iran.

The International Emergency Economic Powers Act authorizes the President of the United States to impose economic sanctions on a foreign country when the President declares a national emergency. In 1995, the President issued a series of Executive Orders declaring that the actions and policies of the Government of Iran constituted a national emergency. In order to deal with that threat, the President imposed economic sanctions against Iran, to include a trade embargo (the Iran Trade Embargo). In order to implement the Iran Trade Embargo, the U.S. Department of the Treasury promulgated regulations that prohibit the export, sale or supply to Iran of any goods or services from the United States without prior authorization.