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Press Release

Dana Point Man Sentenced to 18 Months in Federal Prison for Conspiring to Export High-End Computer Servers to Iran

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

LOS ANGELES – An Orange County man was sentenced today to 18 months in federal prison for conspiring to procure and illegally ship high-end computer servers from the United States to Iran, in violation of the International Emergency Powers Act (IEEPA) and U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Johnny Paul Tourino, 69, of Dana Point, was sentenced by United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton, who also fined him $20,000. Tourino has agreed to forfeit approximately $2 million in seized funds.

On March 3, Tourino pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate IEEPA, which controls and restricts the export of certain goods from the United States to foreign nations, as well as U.S. sanctions against Iran.

According to court records, Tourino owned and operated Spectra Equipment Inc., a Laguna Niguel-based computer support and services company. Between September 2015 and March 2017, Tourino negotiated the sale of five business-class computer servers valued at $2.1 million and attempted to have them sent to Iran for use by two Iranian financial institutions, Bank Mellat and Bank Keshavarzi.  

In February 2017, when the manufacturer of the servers asked Tourino to identify the end-user, he falsely stated that the servers were being sold to a bank in Africa and “NOT going to Iran.” Later that month, Tourino, through his lawyer, falsely represented to the manufacturer that the servers were going to Slovenia.

Roughly one week later, Tourino sent three checks to the manufacturer as partial payment for the servers. After learning that the Department of Treasury had blocked funds from Iran that were to be used to pay for the servers, Tourino deleted his emails and contacted the Department of Treasury and again falsely stated that the servers were not going to Iran and were destined for Slovenia.

According to court documents, in August 2015, Tourino previously brokered the sale of four business-class computer servers that were ultimately sent to Bank Mellat in Iran. Regarding these servers, Judge Staton noted “the government cannot get back the 2015 servers.” These servers offered high-level encryption allowing the users to shield information from law enforcement detection.

“Mr. Tourino knowingly violated U.S. law and sanctions by attempting to sell millions of dollars’ worth of computer equipment to Iran and doing business with sanctioned Iranian banks that have been the lifeblood of Iran’s international acts of terror and nuclear weapons program,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “Today’s sentence exemplifies the unshakeable will of this Office to vigorously investigate and bring to justice persons who would undermine our national security by giving aid and comfort to hostile foreign state actors.”

“Defendant Tourino conspired to illegally export restricted equipment to a foreign adversary and took steps to conceal his activities to avoid law enforcement scrutiny,” said Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Tourino’s activity violated U.S. economic and trade sanctions and, in the process, potentially aided an oppressive terrorist regime and put America’s long-term security interests at risk.”

“We will fully and aggressively enforce restrictions on U.S. exports to parties in Iran,” said Los Angeles Field Office Special Agent in Charge Gregory Dunlap of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement (OEE). “OEE will continue to leverage its unique authorities to pursue violators wherever they are, and will collaborate with our law enforcement partners to achieve this goal.”

“Tourino attempted to profit from a far-reaching, extensive scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran. Tourino repeatedly lied to illegally obtain and supply dual-use items to a foreign nation,” said Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher of the Los Angeles Field Office of IRS Criminal Investigation. “This sentence is the result of a successful joint investigative effort with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. IRS Criminal Investigation is fully committed to protecting national security by disrupting efforts by our adversaries to violate U.S. export controls.”

The FBI, the Commerce Department’s Office of Export Enforcement, and IRS Criminal Investigation investigated this matter.

Assistant United States Attorneys Mark Takla of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section and Bradley Marrett of the Santa Ana Branch Office prosecuted this case. The Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division provided substantial assistance.

Contact

Ciaran McEvoy
Public Information Officer
ciaran.mcevoy@usdoj.gov
(213) 894-4465

Updated December 8, 2023

Topics
Export Control
National Security
Press Release Number: 23-269