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Two plead guilty in U.S. to violating Iran export ban

By Carol Cratty, CNN Senior Producer
updated 5:58 PM EST, Mon December 3, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Iranian citizen and a pilot for U.S. airline plead guilty in Kentucky
  • Indictment said the men arranged sales of helicopters, engine parts for civilian use
  • Each face up to 40 years in prison for violating export ban

(CNN) -- An Iranian citizen and an airline pilot from Kentucky pleaded guilty to violating U.S. export law on Monday through a scheme to send aircraft and parts to Iran for civilian use.

Hamid Asefi, an Iranian citizen, and Behzad "Tony" Karimian, a U.S. citizen who also has an Iranian passport, each face up to 40 years in prison and a $500,000 fine when sentenced in March.

Asefi, 68, was identified in court documents as the principal officer of Aster Corp Ltd, which is described as an Iranian company that also had an office in Britain. Karimian, 53, was identified as a pilot for Mesaba Airlines, a regional carrier.

The two were arrested in June. An August indictment was unsealed on Monday just before they entered guilty pleas in federal court in Louisville.

According to the two-count indictment, the men conspired to and also actually violated U.S. law by exporting aircraft or parts to Iran.

Prosecutors said Asefi used his company's office in Britain as a point to get goods from the United States and ship them through third parties.

The indictment said Asefi sent requests to Karimian to buy aircraft and parts in the United States. Karimian placed orders and helped make purchases on behalf on Asefi and people in Iran.

Court documents said Asefi and Karamian violated the Iranian ban by arranging sales of Bell Helicopters and aircraft engines produced by General Electric from September 2009 through April 2010.

Prosecutors said the helicopters and engines were intended for civilian use.

Prosecutors said Asefi and Karimian were well aware they were violating an embargo on sales to Iran.

The indictment quotes a 2007 e-mail Asefi sent to Karimian about working together. The e-mail said in part "... remember that, only US Embargo has brought this chance and benefit to us, to get involved in these deals ..."

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