Skip to main content

Maryland man, 5 Iranians accused of scheme to evade Iran trade embargo

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Department Producer
  • Co-conspirators illegally provided technology that led to spy satellite launch
  • All six netted $10 million dollars
  • Feds will seek forfeiture of the money

Washington (CNN) -- A Maryland businessman was arrested Tuesday after a federal grand jury indicted him and five Iranians for conspiring to illegally provide to Iran technology that allowed the launch of an Iranian satellite.

Nader Modanlo, 49, of Potomac, Maryland, made an initial appearance in federal court in nearby Greenbelt on the outskirts of Washington Tuesday. Modanlo, a native of Iran, is a naturalized U.S. citizen. His Iranian co-conspirators remain at large.

Federal prosecutors said the plot, which began in 2000, enabled an Iranian camera-equipped satellite to be launched from Russia in 2005.

"The object of the conspiracy was to evade the Iran Trade Embargo by using sham companies ... to conceal Iranian involvement in the prohibited activities and transactions," said the indictment unsealed by a federal judge.

U.S. officials said the plan netted each of the defendants $10 million dollars and that authorities will seek the forfeiture of all the proceeds.

If convicted, Modanlo faces up to 20 years in prison on each of three counts of violating the Iran trade embargo. The Iranian associates charged in the case, if brought to justice, each face up to 20 years in prison for money laundering.