News and Press Releases

Illegal alien from iran convicted of operating illegal money transmitting business

June 29, 2012


NEWARK, N.J. – An Iranian citizen living in Nutley, N.J., was convicted today by a federal jury in connection with a scheme to illegally transmit money between the United States and Iran, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Mahdi Socara, a/k/a “ Mahdi Sakara,” 40, was previously indicted on charges of conspiring to illegally transmit money and for actually transmitting the money between the two countries. The jury found him guilty of both counts following a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden in Newark federal court.

According to the documents filed in this case, statements made in court, and the evidence at trial:

Socara is an illegal alien who in 2001 entered the State of Washington from Canada by using a false Canadian passport bearing the name “Roger Lee Vlaar.” He was arrested by immigration authorities in Las Vegas in 2001 and found to be carrying an identification card with that name. He became a fugitive after he was released on bond but failed to appear before an immigration judge as ordered.

Socara eventually settled in the New Jersey-New York area and opened a rug import business. In 2005, he also began to operate a “hawala” money transmitting business with his father, who lives in Teheran, Iran. As Socara admitted to agents from Homeland Security, who arrested him in Secaucus, N.J., in 2010, he and his father transmitted $100,000 to $500,000 a year on behalf of various customers.

It is illegal in both New York and New Jersey to operate a money transmitting business without a state license. It is also illegal to operate a money transmitting business anywhere in the United States without registering with the U.S. Department of Treasury. The jury found that Socara had conspired with his father to operate an illegal money transmitting business, that he had operated an illegal money transmitting business in New York without a license and he had also done so without being registered with U.S. Treasury.

Under the charges on which he was convicted, Socara faces a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct.15, 2012.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Homeland Security Investigations, New York office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James T. Hayes Jr., with the investigation leading to Socara’s conviction.

The Government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frances C. Bajada of the Narcotics/OCDETF Unit in Newark and Bohdan Vitvitsky of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.

The defendant represented himself at trial with a public defender as stand-by counsel.


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