Articles Tagged with Immigration and Customs Enforcement

APRIL 27, 2017
Marco Aurelio Coello was tortured in Venezuela before he left that country to seek asylum in the United States.

Coello is an activist who took part in a protest in 2014 in opposition to the regime of Nicolás Maduro when he was a high school student.

In due course the protest he attended became violent.
Coello was tear-gassed and arrested on charges of inciting violence before being tortured according to his lawyer. He was subsequently released due to what was labeled as psychological problems.

While awaiting trial in Venezuela the 19 year old student recognized the fact that he had no choice but to flee the country; the alternative could be facing a decade or more in prison because of his participation in the political demonstration.

In 2015 he told a local journalist that he knew he had no choice but to leave his homeland.
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The International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), sanctioned in October 1977, is a United States federal law empowering the regulation of commerce after a National emergency is declared in reaction to any uncommon and/or extraordinary threat to the Nation which originates from a non-American (foreign) source.

Subsequent to the terrorist attacks which included the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush enacted an Executive Order under the IEEPA to block assets of any persons or organizations deemed to have terrorist ties. He delegated blocking powers led by the U.S. Treasury to various federal agencies.

Additionally, in 2006, the United Nations Security Council passed a Resolution to impose sanctions on Iran after the government refused to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

On October 3, 2012, Seyed Ghorashi Sarvestani, an Iranian National, was arrested under the IEEPA. He pled guilty for conspiring to export merchandise from the U.S. to Iran on May 8 of this year and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison this week in front of U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe who also accepted his guilty plea. Among the items that were transported abroad over the past 7 years was sensitive satellite-related equipment that Sarvestani had been exporting through his companies. In addition to the two and one half year period of incarceration Sarvestani was also fined $100,000 and commanded to forfeit $54,000. He was also ordered to pay a $100 special assessment by Judge Gardephe.

According to a press release published by the Department of Justice, the Complaint, specifies, that the Information to which Sarvestani pled guilty and the testimony delivered during the action against him is as follows.

“Sarvestani, an Iranian national, was an owner of, and served as a managing director and director of, two related companies based in the United Arab Emirates. In that capacity, he worked with others to export electronic equipment used for satellite communications and data transfer, as well as other goods, from the United States to Iran, without the requisite approval from the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Sarvestani and others conspired to acquire satellite technology and hardware from a supplier based in the United States, for shipment to Iran. To conceal the true destination of the goods from the U.S. supplier, Sarvestani and his co-conspirators arranged for the items to be shipped first to the United Arab Emirates and subsequently shipped to Iran.”

Sarvestani’s actions are a clear violation of the Iran Trade Embargo. Similar cases prosecuted this year involving the transport and the exporting of American manufactured industrial products to Iran include an indictment by a federal grand jury of Ali Saboonchi, 32, a United States citizen from Parkville, Maryland, who was partnering with Arash Rashti Mohammad, 31, an Iranian resident.

Saboonchi, through his companies shipped merchandise to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which was then relayed to Iran. Selected items that were shipped are described as cyclone separators which are used in the refining process of oil. They also exported thermocouples which are used to measure the temperatures of gas and oil products. Mohammad was stationed in the United Arab Emirates. He and Saboonchi conspired to create Saboonchi’s company, Ace Electric, for the purpose of selling the prohibited goods using the UAE as a transit point before they continued on to buyers in Iran.

The International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) was raised in other cases dealing with foreign governments over the past two decades including the countries listed below:
Myanmar, since 1997 for its repression of democratic opposition, the Sudan, since 1997 for human rights violations and sponsoring terrorism, Russia, which was initiated in 2000 to prevent export of weapons-grade uranium, Zimbabwe, since 2003 for the destabilization of democratic institutions, Syria, since 2004 for funding and support of terrorism and later for abuses of human rights, Belarus, since 2006 for undermining democratic organizations and North Korea, since 2008 for displaying the risk of the proliferation of weapon-usable fissile material

In the Sarvestani case, Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York praised the investigative work of the New York Offices of the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service of the Department of Defense, and the Office of Export Enforcement. He also expressed thanks to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for their help with the investigation.

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