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Press Release

Texas Men Sentenced for Conspiracy to Sell Sanctioned Iranian Petroleum to China

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Two Texas men, both of whom were convicted at trial, were sentenced today to 45 months in prison for attempting to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), conspiracy to violate IEEPA and conspiracy to commit money laundering based on their attempt to transact in sanctioned petroleum and launder the proceeds. 

According to court documents, Zhenyu “Bill” Wang, 43, a Chinese citizen, and Daniel Ray Lane, 42, of McKinney, Texas, schemed with co-conspirators to evade U.S. economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) from July 2019 to February 2020 by facilitating the purchase of sanctioned oil from Iran, masking its origins and selling the oil under masked origins to buyers in the People’s Republic of China. To accomplish their goal, the conspirators communicated among themselves and with third parties concerning, among other things, concealing the origin of the oil and the overall illegal transaction, financing the transaction, preparing contracts and other documents needed to effect the sale, shipping the sanctioned Iranian oil, obtaining Antiguan passports to facilitate the transaction and to establish offshore bank accounts to receive funds, distributing proceeds from the intended sale of the sanctioned Iranian oil and concealing and disguising the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the proceeds of the intended transaction. 

“Today, Mr. Lane and Mr. Wang are held accountable for attempting to broker illicit oil sales between Iran and China, and launder the proceeds, in violation of U.S. sanctions,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The court’s sentence makes clear that those who place personal profit over national security will face serious consequences.” 

“It’s one thing to be entrepreneurial and take risks, but when your business plan hinges on evading U.S. sanctions, you’re doing it wrong,” said U.S. Attoreny Jacqueline C. Romero for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Wang, Lane and their co-conspirators’ scheme to make millions also would have enriched Iran, one of our government’s foreign adversaries, in direct contravention of measures meant to protect American interests and national security. Holding accountable those who violate our sanctions laws and export controls is a priority for my office and our partners at the FBI.” 

“The FBI will use all our lawful authorities to stop those who seek to evade sanctions on Iranian oil,” said Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “Today’s sentencing of Zhenyu Wang and Daniel Ray Lane reflects our commitment to combatting these illegal actions and serves as a warning to others that violating U.S. sanctions impacts our national security and will not be tolerated.” 

Wang played a critical role in this conspiracy, providing the connection to the Chinese buyers who would purchase the Iranian oil. As part of his efforts, Wang communicated with multiple parties in China, secured a written offer from a Chinese buyer and brokered a contract of sale with this buyer. He also arranged for bribe payments to be made to Chinese officials to facilitate the illegal transaction. Lane agreed to help launder the Iranians’ proceeds from the transaction. He offered to use the mineral rights that he sold through his business, Stack Royalties, to conceal the Iranians’ profits, and even purchased a cash machine to count the millions of dollars of laundered proceeds quickly. Wang and Lane worked with three other conspirators who acted as intermediaries seeking buyers for the sanctioned oil.  

The conspirators believed that they would profit handsomely from the scheme to evade U.S. sanctions through significant shipments of sanctioned Iranian oil. They planned to start their scheme with a 500,000-barrel shipment of Iranian oil, but intended to increase the shipments to one or two million barrels per month for a year or more. Lane and another co-conspirator understood that the scheme was to be funded by an initial $5 million payment, which would include $4 million provided in cash. And the conspirators believed that they would make significant profits, with Wang stating that he planned to make $1.5 million in profit for each 500,000-barrel shipment.  

Wang and Lane acted fully aware that the scheme to sell sanctioned Iranian crude oil was in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran. In fact, both defendants made statements explicitly acknowledging that their conduct was illegal. Wang, for example, acknowledged the profits he stood to make by engaging in illegal transactions, stating that “I love sanction to be honest with you and the sanctions make everybody money.” Similarly, Lane discussed concealing and disguising the proceeds of the transactions in sanctioned Iranian oil, noting that “sanctions can always be massaged . . . you know, there is always a way around it.”  

In January 2024, Wang and Lane’s co-conspirator, Nicholas Hovan, was sentenced to 12 months and a day in prison, and co-conspirators Nicholas Fuchs and Robert Thwaites were each sentenced to 10 months in prison.

The FBI investigated the case. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick J. Murray and Mary E. Crawley for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania prosecuted the case, with valuable assistance provided by Trial Attorney Beau Barnes of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. 

Updated June 11, 2024

Export Control
National Security
Press Release Number: 24-743