By Ivan Pereira
An Iranian immigrant who ran a carpet store in Rosedale was convicted last week in a bench trial of violating the trade embargo between the United States and his homeland by transferring nearly $300,000 there illegally, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan said.
Reza Safarha faces up to 35 years behind bars when he is sentenced in June for his conviction on several federal charges, including conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, conspiracy to launder money and stealing government money, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.
Safarha, 55, who owned the KP House of Carpets, at 134-35 Brookville Blvd., had dealings with a government informant in 2007 and 2008, sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to Iran and thought the cash came from the purchase of stolen computers, according to the U.S. attorney. In reality, it was property of the U.S. government, according to Bharara.ï»¿
“The United States imposes trade sanctions on countries whose governments support policies that are against the interests of the United States. Iran is such a country,” he said in a statement.
“Reza Safarha defied the Iran trade embargo and sent hundreds of thousands of illicit dollars to a country that has been deemed a threat to our national security.”
Since 1995, the United States has imposed a trade embargo against Iran that prohibits any U.S. citizen from giving the country supplies or money.
Safarha used an informal money transferring system known as a “hawala,” in which the funds never physically cross international boundaries through the banking system, according to the U.S. attorney. Instead, the funds are transferred by customers by a hawala operator in one country and disbursed to recipients in another country by the operator’s associates on that end, the U.S. attorney said.
A man who was arrested by the feds in a separate incident and agreed to cooperate with IRS agents ï»¿in other investigations met with Safarha at the store on several occasions in 2007 and arranged to give money to the owner that would be transferred to Iran, Bharara said. The informant indicated to Safarha that the cash came from the sale of stolen computers, according to the criminal complaint.
The money, which totaled approximately $300,000 over the course of the yearlong investigation was deposited into Safarha’s U.S. Chase bank account and he later wrote several checks to another person, the criminal complaint said. The alleged accomplice would then write checks in amounts as large as $51,000 with the citation “For Hawala from Iran” written in the memo section, according to the criminal complaint.
The funds would then be moved to an Iranian bank account, the complaint said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.