Unlicensed New York money transmitter from Iran charged in sting

Unlicensed New York money transmitter from Iran charged in sting
11/01/2002

An Iranian national operating an unlicensed money transmitting business has been convicted on charges of money laundering, conspiracy, structuring of cash transactions and violating the U.S. embargo on Iran by sending money there.

An Iranian national operating an unlicensed money transmitting business in New York City has been convicted in Manhattan federal court on charges of money laundering, conspiracy, structuring of cash transactions and violating the U.S. embargo on Iran by sending money there.

The case of Mazyar Gavidel and his business, Homa International Trade Corp., resulted from a two-year undercover investigation by the El Dorado Task Force in New York City. El Dorado is a 12-year-old multi-agency operation led by the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service that targets money laundering primarily by money transmitters.

Multi-tiered case

Gavidel laundered and structured transactions in drug proceeds of Colombian narcotics traffickers and others. His primary business, however, which he advertised in Farsi-language newspapers in the Iranian-American community, was to wire funds to Iran, which has been subject to a U.S.-embargo for nearly 20 years. Gavidel’s ads falsely claimed that Homa was a licensed money transmitter.

He was not accused of having links to terrorist organizations.

OFAC involved

Gavidel disguised his funds transfers to Iran by sending them in bulk through third parties, principally to a money broker in the United Arab Emirates. From 1998 to 2000, he transferred about $2 million to Iran.

The trial transcript shows that at least two of Gavidel’s customers tried to send money to Iran by attempting wire transfers through U.S. banks. The U.S. banks’ software filters rejected the transfers when they detected the names of Iranian banks listed as the recipients. The banks informed the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control as they are required to do. OFAC contacted Gavidel.

A tip-off

What he did not know was that a criminal investigation was already underway thanks to an informant’s tip that Gavidel’s business was not licensed, that he was sending money to Iran and that he was laundering drug money.

The El Dorado task force commenced an investigation. An undercover agent was able to get Gavidel to launder $400,000 in purported drug money. Gavidel agreed to wire the money to the supposed drug dealer’s accounts in London.

During the same time, Gavidel laundered about $700,000 in drug proceeds for Colombian traffickers and wired the funds to bank accounts in Panama, Barbados and Honduras.

Structured accounts

Gavidel also laundered drug money through the purchase of more than $600,000 in U.S. Postal Service money orders. On more than 50 occasions, he made multiple purchases of postal money orders at various locations – as many as 11 in one day – in a manner designed to evade detection by keeping them below the $3,000 recordkeeping threshold. He then deposited the money orders in his business bank account.

Gavidel will be sentenced this month and faces a lengthy prison sentence. (Case No. 1:00 CR-417, S. Dis. NY).