- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 16, 2012

A California man pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Washington to charges of conspiring to illegally export computers from the U.S. to Iran through the United Arab Emirates (UAE). An associate also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who heads the Justice Department’s national security division, said Massoud Habibion, 49, a U.S. citizen and co-owner of Online Micro LLC, a Costa Mesa, Calif., company, entered the plea before U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, admitting he conspired to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which gives the president the authority to block transactions with and freeze assets of countries deemed a threat. Habibion also is accused of defrauding the United States.

Ms. Monaco said Mohsen Motamedian, 44, also a U.S. citizen and co-owner of Online Micro, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Sentencing for both was set for May 16.

Under a plea agreement and related civil settlements with the Commerce Department, Habibion and his company have agreed to pay a$1.9 million judgment. In addition, Habibion and Online Micro were 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 agreement and sentences.

Motamedian separately agreed to a $50,000 monetary penalty to settle a civil charge he solicited a false statement to federal law enforcement agents.

According to court documents, Habibion and Online Micro admitted conspiring with a company operating in Dubai, UAE, and Tehran to procure computers from the United States and export them to Iran through Dubai without first obtaining the required licenses or authorizations.

The documents show that in May 2007, Online Micro purchased 1,000 computers from Dell Inc. for $500,000 and later that year Dell began receiving service calls concerning the computers from persons in Iran. After conducting an internal investigation, Dell suspended Online Micro from placing further orders.

Beginning in November 2009 and continuing through December 2010, the documents show that Habibion and Online Micro conspired with a firm operating in Dubai and Tehran to procure computer-related goods and export those goods to Iran via the UAE. In all, they said, Online Micro and Habibion sold and exported numerous shipments of computer-related goods worth more than $4.9 million knowing that the majority of the goods were destined for Iran.

During the course of the investigation, the documents show that Habibion and Motamedian told an undercover government cooperator to lie to U.S. law enforcement officials about the transactions. They said Habibion and Motamedian told the cooperator to lie about Iran being the ultimate destination for the goods and counseled him to tell U.S. law enforcement agents that the computer-related goods remained in Dubai.