MANHATTAN (CN) – Two carpet salesmen and a third man in Queens were arrested on federal charges of money laundering to Iran. IRS and FBI agents say the men offered to send the money through the hawala system, which operates outside of banks and uses a third-party hawaladar to make transactions for a fee.
In the unsealed complaint, IRS Special Agent Dan McWilliams claims a confidential source asked Reza Safarha aka Ali Safarha, the owner of KP House of Carpets in Queens, and his employee Nick Mohamey aka Abdollah Mohammadipour aka Abdi Pour, to transfer money to Iran to open a business.
Mohammad Soroush Mahalaty aka Mohammad Soroush aka Mike Soroush, Chairman of the Board of Javid Home Corp., is also accused of participating in the conspiracy.
Safarha and Mohamey offered to send money through the hawala system, which operates on “trust and the extensive use of connections such as family relationships or regional affiliations,” McWilliams says.
In May 2007, the confidential source allegedly gave the men $20,000 in FBI money and received it back in Iranian currency. “The funds, less fees, were eventually returned to the custody of the FBI,” McWilliams says.
The confidential source says he returned in June with a new proposition. He told Safarha and Mohamey that he needed to transfer money to sell 10,000 stolen laptops, and offered to give the men samples of the stolen merchandise.
The men allegedly accepted the offer, along with two more wire transfers of $30,000 and $150,000, and sent checks to their Iranian contacts with “For Hawala from Iran” written in Farsi on the memo.
McWilliams says that when he asked how the deal was going in August, Safarha told him in a recorded conversation, “What’s the matter with you? … It take time to go over there and it take time to go out. … This is not a normal country, this is, is unnormal country.”
If convicted of money laundering and conspiracy, the men face maximum sentences of 20 years in prison.