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California Resident Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Export Computer-Related Equipment to Iran

WASHINGTON – Massoud Habibion, 49, aka “Matt Habibion” and “Matt Habi,” a U.S. citizen and co-owner of a Costa Mesa, Calif., company, Online Micro LLC, pleaded guilty today in the District of Columbia to conspiracy to illegally export computers from the United States to Iran through the United Arab Emirates (UAE).    Additionally, Mohsen Motamedian, 44, aka “Max Motamedian” and “Max Ehsan,” a U.S. citizen and co-owner of Online Micro, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

The guilty pleas were announced by Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; John Morton, Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); David W. Mills, Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement, Department of Commerce; and Adam Szubin, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Department of the Treasury.

At a hearing today before U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, Habibion and Online Micro each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and to defraud the United States.   Motamedian pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.   Judge Huvelle set sentencing for May 16, 2012.   The maximum sentence for Habibion and the company is five years in prison and $1 million.   The maximum sentence for Motamedian is 20 years in prison.

Under the terms of the plea and related civil settlements with the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and OFAC, Habibion and his company have agreed to forfeiture of a money judgment in the amount of $1.9 million. In addition, Habibion and Online Micro are denied export privileges for 10 years, although the denial order will be suspended provided that neither Habibion nor Online Micro commit any export violations during the 10-year probationary period and comply with the terms of the criminal plea agreements and sentences.  Motamedian separately agreed to a $50,000 monetary penalty to settle a civil charge that he solicited a false statement to federal law enforcement agents.

Habibion and Motamedian were arrested on a criminal complaint in California on April 7, 2011. The defendants and their company were later indicted on April 21, 2011.

Habibion and Online Micro today admitted that they willfully conspired with a company operating in Dubai, UAE, and Tehran, Iran, to procure U.S.-origin computers from the United States and export those computers from the United States to Iran through Dubai without first obtaining licenses or authorizations from OFAC.

In or around May 2007, Online Micro purchased 1,000 computer units from Dell Inc. for approximately $500,000.   Later that year, Dell began receiving service calls concerning Dell computer units from individuals in Iran, and after conducting an internal investigation, suspended Online Micro from placing further orders with Dell.

Beginning around Nov. 9, 2009, and continuing through December 2010, Habibion and Online Micro conspired with Company X, a firm operating in Dubai and Tehran, to procure U.S.-origin computer-related goods and export those goods to Iran via the UAE.   During the scope of the conspiracy, defendants Online Micro and Habibion sold and exported from the United States to Company X numerous shipments of computer-related goods, worth a total of more than $4,904,962, with knowledge that the majority of those goods were destined for Iran.

Online Micro also caused Shipper’s Export Declarations to be filed with U.S. Customs and Border Protection falsely identifying the ultimate destination of the goods as the UAE.   During the course of the investigation, Habibion and Motamedian told a government cooperator (Individual A) to lie to U.S. law enforcement officials about the transactions.   Specifically, the defendants told Individual A to lie about Iran being the true ultimate destination for the goods and counseled him to tell U.S. law enforcement agents that the computer-related goods remained in Dubai.

Motamedian and Habibion also acknowledged to Individual A that the sanctions “are serious” and “were not a joke.”  Yet Motamedian told Individual A to “Say, ‘I sold over there’ and have your guys make up invoices;” and “[d]efinitely delete your communication with [Company X’s agent in Iran] on Yahoo.” Similarly, Habibion stated to Individual A that he should tell U.S. law enforcement agents that the computer-related goods remained in Dubai: “Well, you can say, ‘I kept the goods there.’  How does he know what happened?”

This investigation was conducted by the ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) field offices in San Diego and Orange County, Calif.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s BIS Los Angeles Field Office also assisted in the investigation.

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