Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa man gets four years in prison for exporting equipment to Iran

TAMPA — Sending crayons to Iranian schoolchildren could bring someone the same prison sentence as handing over a nuclear missile to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

That was an argument made by the attorney for a Tampa businessman and engineer sentenced by a federal judge to four years in prison Thursday for shipping $14.8 million in sophisticated computer equipment to Iran from 2003 to 2011.

Mohammad Reza "Ray" Hajian, 57, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Tehran, shipped the equipment via a middleman in the United Arab Emirates knowing it would then be sent to Iran, prosecutors said.

James Felman, Hajian's attorney, asked the judge for leniency, noting the equipment was not intended for the Iranian government or military.

Instead, he said, it was sold to a South African business working on an Iranian cell phone network in partnership with an Iranian firm.

Felman noted in court papers that under U.S. law, the shipment of almost anything to Iran is construed as a threat to U.S. security, whether crayons or weapons of mass destruction, because the country is considered a sponsor of terrorism.

And the shipment of innocuous items in violation of the U.S. trade embargo with Iran, by law, can lead to punishment as severe as someone convicted of sending a nuclear bomb, Felman said.

He said Hajian should be treated more leniently than the purveyor of weapons of mass destruction.

Prosecutor Rachelle DesVaux Bedke acknowledged evidence indicates the equipment was going to be used for cell phone infrastructure.

But she said, "The problem is, this is Iran. There's no way the government can do an end-user check. … The possibility exists" the equipment could eventually fall into the wrong hands.

In an agreement with prosecutors, Hajian, who has no prior criminal record, pleaded guilty in July to conspiring to illegally export materials to Iran.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he worked as an engineer for the city of Tampa and Pinellas County.

"I am truly sorry," Hajian told U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington and a courtroom packed with family and friends. "I'm willing to take responsibility for my actions. I am not a bad person. I just did some bad things."

Prosecutors said Hajian was first warned about shipping materials to Iran in 2001 when he was quizzed by U.S. Treasury officials after they discovered a financial transfer from Iran to one of his companies.

But they said Hajian continued to ship equipment to Iran.

Hajian's sentence will be followed by one year of supervised release.

The judge also imposed a $10 million judgment against several defunct companies Hajian operated out of his home — RH International, Nexiant and P&P Computers.

Covington could have sentenced Hajian to a maximum of five years in prison.

"You are not a bad man," the judge told Hajian. "But you made some bad mistakes. You made decisions that could have caused harm to the United States."

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and several other federal agencies.

Comments
Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

HOUSTON — Energy.That's what Kevin Kiermaier said he felt he'd provide most in rejoining the Rays Tuesday against the Astros after missing two-plus months recovering from thumb surgery."I like to think I bring energy on both sides of the ball, ...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

HOUSTON — The starting pitcher walked seven over seven otherwise solid innings Tuesday. That seemed weird enough for the Rays. Then the next pitcher they brought in was the one who started Monday's game. Even more bizarre.And then there was thi...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
As Tesla races to meet Model 3 deadline, factory pressures and suspicions grow

As Tesla races to meet Model 3 deadline, factory pressures and suspicions grow

Tesla chief Elon Musk said last week that the company’s layoffs of 9 percent of its workforce wouldn’t affect production as the all-electric automaker races to build thousands of new Model 3 sedans a week.But documents the company filed days later wi...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Victor Hedman is talking from a hotel room in Las Vegas and admits he's a little jet-lagged."Actually, very jet-lagged," Hedman says.That's what happens when you take a flight from Sweden to the party capital of the world.But he knows exactly what he...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Updated: 5 hours ago
New Port Richey man faces sexual battery charge

New Port Richey man faces sexual battery charge

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 33-year-old man was arrested Monday on a charge of sexual battery, accused of assaulting a 10-year-old girl.Jonathan Wells was booked into the Pasco County jail, where he was being held Tuesday without bail.The assault took place ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

House bill would detain families — togetherThe Republican House compromise bill on immigration would end the family separation issue at the border — but Democrats won’t support it. The bill mandates that the Department of Homeland Security hold any a...
Updated: 7 hours ago

WashingtonSenate approves $716B for 2019 military budgetThe U.S. Senate on Monday voted to give the military $716 billion for 2019, approving one of the biggest defense budgets in modern American history despite concerns from some economists and lawm...
Updated: 7 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

UPDATE, 6:45: Cash said Smith will continue to play a lot, getting time in LF and RF, meaning something of a rotation system for rookie Johnny Field and veteran Carlos Gomez.UPDATE, 4:49: Kiermaier is batting leadoff and playing center as expected, w...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Updated: 7 hours ago