(CN) – A federal judge in Manhattan found a businessman guilty of violating the Iran Trade Embargo for transferring $300,000 in ill-gotten gains to Iran through an underground banking system trusted by criminals and terrorists the world over.
Prosecutors say Reza Safarha, a dual citizen of the United States and Iran, was caught along with co-conspirators through a sting operation. A confidential informant for the FBI asked Safarha, who also goes by Ali, to use the “hawala” system in 2007 and 2008 to transfer money earned from the sale of stolen electronics to Iran.
In hawala, money does not physically cross international borders through a legitimate banking system. Instead, the money is sent to a “hawaladar” in a foreign country to make the transactions. They system operates on “trust and the extensive use of connections such as family relationships or regional affiliations,” according to a court filing authored by IRS Special Agent Dan McWilliams.
In addition to violating the embargo with Iran, authorities believe Safarha stole $10,000 from the U.S. government, which he intentionally did not send abroad.
U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan found Safarha guilty of one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, one substantive count of violating that act, one count of conspiracy to launder money, one substantive count of money laundering and one count of stealing government money.
Safarha faces 35 years in prison when he is sentenced on June 3.