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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Kentucky

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 4, 2013

Iranian Citizen And U.S. Citizen Residing In Louisville, Kentucky, Holding An Iranian Passport, Sentenced In Plot To Export Aircraft And Aircraft Parts To Iran

– Conspired to violate the U.S. embargo against Iran

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - David J. Hale, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky; Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and Perrye Turner, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louisville Division, announced the sentencings today, of two men to charges related to unlawful export of aircraft and aircraft parts from the United States to Iran. One of the defendants, Hamid Asefi, age 67, is a citizen and resident of the Republic of Iran. The other, Behzad Karimian, also known as “Tony” Karimian, age 52, is a United States citizen living in Louisville, Kentucky who holds a valid Iranian passport and is employed as a Mesaba Airlines Pilot. Asefi was sentenced to 23 months in prison, and Karimian was sentenced to 46 months in prison by Chief Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr. in United States District Court. The defendants pleaded guilty in Louisville, before Magistrate Judge James D. Moyer on December 3, 2012. The two-count Indictment was returned by a Federal Grand Jury meeting in Louisville on August 2, 2012 and unsealed prior to their change of pleas hearings.

Hamid Asefi and Behzad Karimian were both charged with conspiracy to violate and violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act for exporting, selling, or causing the export or sale of aircraft and aircraft parts without first having obtained the required license from the U.S. Department of Treasury. Asefi made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Louisville, Kentucky on June 1, 2012. Karimian was arrested and made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Louisville, Kentucky on June 6, 2012.

Asefi is the principal officer of Aster Corp Ltd., an Iranian company with offices in both Iran and the United Kingdom. The Indictment charges that, beginning as early as August 2007 and continuing through April 2011, Asefi used the United Kingdom office of Aster to serve as a transshipment point to facilitate shipment of goods from the United States to Iran; Asefi used Aster to facilitate the shipment of goods from the United States to Iran through third party countries; Asefi sent requests on behalf of Iranian entities to Karimian for purchases of aircraft and aircraft parts located in the United States or owned by United States persons; and Karimian knowingly and willfully made inquiries, placed orders, and attempted to facilitate the purchase of aircraft and aircraft parts located in the United States and owned by United States persons on behalf of defendant Asefi and persons in Iran.

Asefi and Karimian pleaded guilty to Count One of the Indictment and admitted in court that they acted with knowledge and intent to violate the Iran embargo when on September 27, 2007, Asefi and Karimian sent emails to establish a “profitable business collaboration” for the purpose of procuring aircraft and aircraft components for end-users in Iran. They further admitted that on or about October 1, 2009, Asefi sent an email to Karimian which outlined the terms of delivery and payment on future transactions with Iran Air and stated “…remember that, only US Embargo has brought this chance and benefit to us, to get involved in these deals….”

Further, defendants Asefi and Karimian pleaded guilty to Count Two of the Indictment, and admitted that beginning in September 2009 and continuing through April 2010, they violated the embargo against Iran by exporting and causing the export of services related to the sale of a G.E. Aircraft Engine Model CF6-50C2, as well as attempting the procurement of helicopters manufactured by Bell Helicopter, from the United States to Iran, without first having obtained the required authorizations from the U.S. Department of Treasury. All of the aircraft and aircraft parts involved in this case were intended for civilian use.

“The investigation and prosecution of national security cases is the top priority of the Department of Justice and my Office,” stated David J. Hale, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky. “We view the circumvention of Iranian export control laws as a very serious matter. The FBI should be commended for its excellent work in disrupting this international scheme and bringing these men to justice.”

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 with respect to a national security threat. On March 15, 1995, the President issued an Executive Order declaring the actions and policies of the Government of Iran constituted a national emergency. On May 6, 1995, the President issued an Executive Order imposing the Iran Trade Embargo. On June 23, 2011, the U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on Iran Air after designating it as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction for providing material support and services to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Bryan Calhoun of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky, and Trial Attorney Casey Arrowood of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louisville Division.