Seven Plead Guilty to Providing Material Support to Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 28, 2009|
SANTA ANA, CA—Seven people who were engaged in fundraising activities on behalf of a foreign terrorist organization pleaded guilty today to federal charges of providing material support to the group.
With jury selection in the case underway, the seven defendants each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and one count of actually providing material support to the group.
The terrorist organization at the center of this case is the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which was designed as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States Secretary of State in October 1997. The designation has been renewed on multiple occasions and remains in effect today.
Appearing this afternoon before United States District Judge David O. Carter, the seven defendants admitted that they knowingly raised funds to support the activities of the MEK by collecting money from MEK supporters and soliciting money from unwitting donors at public locations, such as Los Angeles International Airport. The unwitting donors were told that they were supporting a charity called the Committee for Human Rights (CHR), which was sometimes referred to as the Committee for Human Rights in Iran. However, CHR was simply a “front organization” for MEK fund-raising operations in the United States, and CHR was being used by the MEK as a front to raise money to support MEK operations and activities, including its terrorist activities.
“These defendants raised money at locations like LAX on behalf of the MEK, which is a terrorist organization,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “We cannot allow any terrorist organization to fundraise on our shores or to steal money from our own citizens so that they can finance their own terrorism operations. Terrorism anywhere poses a significant security risk to the United States.”
“Part of the mission of the Joint Terrorism Task Force is to investigate fund-raising activities of terrorist groups, some that are disguised as charitable organizations," said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. "Today's guilty pleas are the result of hard work and perseverance by investigators and prosecutors, and should send a messagethat monetary support of a designated terrorist group is more than a financial transaction, but a tangible link to terrorist organizations."
This case began in March 2001, when a federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted the seven defendants. A District Court in Los Angeles dismissed the indictment, but the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s ruling in 2006, and the United States Supreme Court declined to review the matter. In February 2007, the case returned to Los Angeles and was eventually assigned to Judge Carter in Santa Ana.
The seven defendants who pleaded guilty today are:
- Roya Rahmani, of Vienna, Virginia, 48;
- Alireza Mohammadmoradi, of Los Angeles, 38;
- Moustafa Ahmady, of Los Angeles, 54;
- Hossein Kalani Afshari, of Mission Veijo, 52;
- Hassan Rezaie, of Los Angeles, 54;
- Navid Taj, of Santa Monica, 58; and
- Mohammad Omidvar, of Corona, 54.
As a result of the guilty pleas, each defendant faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. Judge Carter is scheduled to sentence the defendants on August 10.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS-Criminal Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.