For the past five years, dozens of Iranian agents have infiltrated the United States with the intention to steal or sell weapons, aircraft parts, and precious information to Tehran.
The Department of Justice has a report that compiles all of the successful or ongoing prosecutions of these illegal exports, and we went through it to find the most daring instances of people trying to get US technology into Iran for use in their military, missile or nuclear engineering programs.
We looked at the past five years specifically, and made this timeline of major busts and arrests.
Reza Tabib had 13,000 aircraft parts and an Iranian shopping list in his house
Any export of F-14 parts raises federal eyebrows, as Iran is the only military that still flies the fighter.
After searching his California home, the feds found over 13,000 aircraft parts and several "shopping lists" that had been given to Tabib and his wife by an Iranian military officer.
Tabib pleaded guilty to violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and his wife was sentenced to two years probation.
Seyed Maghloubi tried to sell 100,000 Uzi submachine guns to Iran
Maghloubi was caught by the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI after trying to have the weapons shipped to Dubai, where they would eventually be smuggled into Iran.
He was sentenced to three years and five months in prison.
Jilani Humayun exported Chinook Helicopter, F-5 and F-15 parts to Malaysia that may have found their way to Tehran on 11 separate occasions
Humayun, a Pakistani living in Long Island, exported parts for the F-5 and F-14 and the Chinook Helicopter. He lied about what he was shipping, and his export of the F-14 parts may have enabled Iranian buyers to maintain their decade-old fighter jet fleet.
Mohammad Reza Alavi stole nuclear power training software from his plant and gave it to Iran in exchange for a job
He then took his laptop with Iran "for use in future employment in the nuclear industry," according to the Justice Department's Report.
How he got caught is the fascinating part. Alavi accessed the software vendor's website from Iran when trying to obtain the code to activate the software.
In December 2008, Mohammad Reza Alavi was sentenced to 15 months in prison after an incredible violation of the Iranian sanctions.
Shahrazad Mir Gholikhan tried to get 3,500 night vision goggles for Iranian military and police forces
She and her husband tried to export the goggles from Austria to Iran directly, but after that plan fell through the Iranian embassy agreed to coordinate the transportation.
Undercover agents received the first sample shipment of the Generation III military-grade nightvision goggles, then arrested her.
Her husband remains a fugitive.
Hossein Ali Khoshnevisrad used multiple front companies to buy helicopter engines and aerial cameras for Iran
One of the recipients of the engines was the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company which is controlled by the Ministry of Defense.
He also acquired multiple aerial cameras used for surveillance cameras used on bombers and fighters such as the F-4E Phantom, currently used by the Iranian military.
Khoshnevisrad was arrested in San Fransisco in 2009
Majid Kakavand exported thousands of military and commercial items to Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs
Kakavand purchased the tech through his Malaysian company from companies in New Jersey, California, Alabama, Florida and Washington.
Many of these parts — for instance, 41,900 radial connectors purchased in 2008 — have industrial uses in missile tech.
Six people led by Baktash Fattahi ran a conspiracy to fill Iranian orders for aircraft parts
The part would be shipped to Iran via Dubai.
The consortium shipped parts to multiple aircraft including:
- F-5 Tiger Fighter Jet
- Bell AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter
- CH-53 Military Helicopter
- F-14 Tomcat Fighter Jet
- UH-1 Huey Military Helicopter
The conspiracy was indicted in April 2009 and Fattahi served 35 months in prison.
Amir Hossein Ardebili was outed as a major arms acquisition agent for Iran after a three-year undercover operation
In December 2009 Ardebili plead guilty to multiple violations of the Arms Export Control Act after making a career of flaunting the law. Here are some of his major acquisitions for Iran:
- The QRS-11 Gyro Chip Sensor, used in missiles and space applications
- The MAPCGM0003 Phase Shifter, which is crucial for targeting systems, missile guidance, and advanced radar systems
- The Digital Air Data Computer, which replaces and completely upgrades the F-4 fighter aircraft computer
He was sentenced to five years in prison.
Yi-Lan Chen lied to the US that he was selling the Iranians missile components
Yi-Lan Chen, using his Taiwanese Landstar Tech Company, served as the middleman between Iranian orders and US businesses. The US companies were wholly unaware of who the end user was. He worked for buyers for the Electro SANAM Industries, a front company for the Iranian ballistic missile program.
Here's one email Chen sent to a buyer:
"As you know, we cannot tell USA this connector is for you. So we have to tell a white lie to USA that this is for our factory in Hong Kong."
Chen was sentenced to four years in prison in August 2010.
American Nader Modanlo is the reason that Iran managed to launch their first satellite
Modanlo and five Iranian nationals illegally provided satellite hardware to the Iranian Space Agency using multiple sham companies which resulted in the craft.
For his services, Modanlo was wired $10 million from an overseas account.
Modanlo was indicted on June 2, 2010.
Belgian Jacques Monsieur was an international arms dealer who tried to get F-5 engines to the Iranians
Monsieur — with his vast network — tried to send the jet parts to Iran by way of Colombia and the United Arab Emirates. He was charged with conspiring to illegally export F-5 fighter jet engines and parts, money laundering and smuggling.
He was supposed to get $300,000 for the engines. He already got $110,000 for the parts.
He also got 23 months imprisonment in 2010.
Mark Knapp tried to sell a whole fighter jet to Iran
One of his most bold sales was an attempt to export a complete F-5 Tiger II fighter jet. He also tried to sell F-14 ejection seats, sophisticated flight suits, and manuals for US fighter jets.
He pleaded guilty in January of 2011.
Milad Jafari operated a vast network supplying Iran with much-needed raw materials
Jafari's network provided direct support to Iran's missile development industry, sending over steel, aluminium alloys, hundreds of pounds of specialized wire, and fiber optic equipment.
He was eventually busted by the FBI and the enforcement arm of the Commerce Department.
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