(May 19, 2020 / JNS) An Iranian company and its executives have been charged for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, announced U.S. prosecutors on Monday.
Iranian financial-services company PAYMENT24 and two of its executives—founder and CEO Seyed Sajjad Shahidian and chief operating officer Vahid Vali—were charged with conspiracy to commit offenses against and defraud the United States, wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft.
Shahidian, 33, who was extradited from the United Kingdom, made his initial appearance earlier today before Magistrate Judge David T. Schultz in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, according to prosecutors.
Vali, 33, remains at large, according to prosecutors.
PAYMENT24 was an Internet-based financial-services company with approximately 40 employees and offices in Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan. Its primary business was helping Iranian citizens conduct prohibited financial transactions with businesses based in the United States, including the unlawful purchase and exportation of computer software, software licenses and computer servers from United States companies, according to the indictment.
The company charged a fee to circumvent “American sanctions” and claimed to have brought in millions of dollars of foreign currency into Iran, according to PAYMENT24’s website.
Beginning in or before 2009 through November 2018, Shahidian conspired with Vali and others to commit offenses against the United States by violating the restrictions on trade and exports from the United States to Iran, according to indictment.
On its website, PAYMENT24 sold a package to assist its Iranian clients with making online purchases from United States-based businesses, which included a PayPal account, a fraudulent “ID card and address receipt,” a remote IP address from the United Arab Emirates and a Visa gift card, according to indictment.
The site also offered its clients advice on how to create accounts with a foreign identity and how to avoid restrictions on foreign websites, including advising clients to “never attempt to log into those sites with an Iranian IP address.”
As part of the scheme, Shahidian and Vali made material misrepresentations and omissions to U.S.-based businesses regarding the destination of the U.S.-origin goods, according to federal prosecutors. In order to accomplish the transactions, Shahidian obtained payment processing accounts from U.S.-based companies using false residency information, fraudulent passport documents and other false documents fabricated using the identity and personally identifiable information of another person.
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