Texas Couple Sentenced to Prison for Conspiracy to Defraud the U.S. and to Engage in Money Laundering
PORTLAND, Ore. – A federal judge in Portland has sentenced Hossein Lahiji, 50, and Najmeh Vahid Dasterjerdi a.k.a. Najmeh Lahiji, 33, both of McAllen, Texas, to prison following their June 2013 convictions by a jury in Portland for conspiracy to defraud the United States and to engage in money laundering. Hossein Lahiji is a physician specializing in urology and Najmeh Vahid is an attorney, both practicing in Texas.
On November 19, 2013, Judge Garr M. King sentenced both defendants to serve a year and a day in federal prison. In addition, the defendants were each ordered to pay $200,000 in fines and jointly to pay restitution in the amount of $973,503.00 to the Internal Revenue Service for back taxes owed. The court also confirmed the jury’s verdict forfeiting an additional $600,000 which was involved in the money laundering offense to the United States.
The indictment alleged that defendants conspired to impede and impair the functions of the Internal Revenue Service in the collection of income taxes and the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Treasury Department in the enforcement of the Presidential Embargo against Iran.
Trial evidence showed that defendants provided funds to a Portland charity, the Child Foundation, between 1998 and 2006. The Child Foundation, in turn, gave the defendants charitable donation receipts and transferred the funds to Iran. Defendants claimed charitable deductions from their income taxes for these payments. Some of the funds were used to purchase a building in Tehran in the name of Hossein Lahiji’s sister. Additional funds were used to invest in an interest-bearing account in an Iranian bank. Yet additional funds were committed to be spent at the discretion of an Iranian Ayatollah. Some of the payments were backdated to facilitate claims of charitable donations for a year prior to the year of actual payment. Many of the uses of the funds violated the Presidential embargo against Iran, instituted in 1995. Co-conspirators Child Foundation and Mehrdad Yasrebi were separately prosecuted and sentenced in March 2012. Child Foundation has since reorganized and continues to operate under the supervision of U.S. Probation officers.
The Presidential Embargo against financial transactions with Iran was first imposed by President Clinton in 1995. Those sanctions have been renewed annually by both Presidents Bush and Obama. U. S. Attorney Amanda Marshall stated that “The enforcement of the sanctions in place against financial transactions with Iran is an important priority of the Department of Justice. Those who would evade those sanctions while cheating on their taxes should expect to be prosecuted.”
Defendants are charged in a separate federal indictment in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to violate the Iranian Embargo, and failure to file a report of foreign bank and financial accounts. Trial in the Houston case is currently scheduled for April 2014.
These cases were investigated by the FBI and the IRS - Criminal Investigations Division, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Atkinson and Charles Gorder.