Texas Couple Convicted of Conspiracy to Defraud the U.S. and to Engage in Money Laundering
Jury Verdict Returned Thursday June 27, 2013
|U.S. Attorney’s Office June 28, 2013|
PORTLAND, OR—A federal jury in Portland returned verdicts of guilty Thursday in the trial of husband and wife Hossein Lahiji, age 50, and Najmeh Vahid Dasterjerdi, a.k.a. Najmeh Lahiji, age 33, both of McAllen, Texas. Hossein Lahiji is a physician specializing in urology, and Najmeh Vahid is an attorney, both practicing in Texas. The counts of conviction included conspiracy to defraud the United States, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, and conspiracy to engage in money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000. The indictment alleged that defendants conspired to impede and impair the functions of the Internal Revenue Service in the collection of income taxes and the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Treasury Department in the enforcement of the presidential embargo against Iran. The jury also returned a verdict of forfeiture to the United States of $600,000 that was involved in the money laundering offense.
Trial evidence showed that defendants provided funds to a Portland charity, the Child Foundation, between 1998 and 2006. The Child Foundation, in turn, gave the defendants charitable donation receipts and transferred the funds to Iran. Defendants claimed charitable deductions from their income taxes for these payments. Some of the funds were used to purchase a building in Tehran in the name of Hossein Lahiji’s sister. Additional funds were used to invest in an interest-bearing account in an Iranian bank. Yet additional funds were committed to be spent at the discretion of an Iranian Ayatollah. Some of the payments were backdated to facilitate claims of charitable donations for a year prior to the year of actual payment. Many of the uses of the funds violated the presidential embargo against Iran, instituted in 1995. Co-conspirators Child Foundation and Mehrdad Yasrebi were separately prosecuted and sentenced in March 2012. Child Foundation has since completely reorganized and continues to operate under the supervision of U.S. Probation officers.
Judge Garr M. King presided over the trial, which began on June 11, 2013. He scheduled sentencing for November 19, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. Defendants remain on release pending sentencing. Defendants are charged in a separate federal indictment in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to violate the Iranian embargo, and failure to file a report of foreign bank and financial accounts. Trial in the Houston case is currently scheduled for October 2013.
These cases were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations Division, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles Gorder and David Atkinson.