US indicts 2 Iranians for stalking Israeli, Jewish targets

The US Justice Department indicted two Iranians suspected of spying on Israeli and Jewish targets for the Islamic Republic. 

By: World Israel News Staff

The US Justice Department on Monday filed an indictment against two Iranians for spying on Israeli and Jewish targets on Tehran’s behalf.

The indictment charges Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 38, a dual US-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, 59, an Iranian citizen and resident of California, with acting on behalf of the Islamic Republic by conducting covert surveillance of Israeli and Jewish facilities in the US.

They are also charged with collecting identifying information about American citizens and US nationals who are members of the group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK- People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran), an Iranian political organization in exile that advocates the overthrow of the current government in Iran.

The defendants were arrested on August 9 following criminal complaints issued by the US District Court for the District of Columbia and an investigation conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and Los Angeles Field Office.

The charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers, US Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia, and Acting Executive Assistant Director Michael McGarrity of the FBI’s National Security Branch.

“The National Security Division is committed to protecting the United States from individuals within our country who unlawfully act on behalf of hostile foreign nations,” Demers said in a Justice Department statement. “Doostdar and Ghorbani are alleged to have acted on behalf of Iran, including by conducting surveillance of political opponents and engaging in other activities that could put Americans at risk.  With their arrest and these charges, we are seeking to hold the defendants accountable.”

“This indictment demonstrates the commitment of the Department of Justice to hold accountable agents of foreign governments who act illegally within the United States, especially where those agents are conducting surveillance of individuals and Constitutionally protected activities in this country,” said Liu.

Knowingly Acting as Iranian Agents

The indictment charged Doostdar and Ghorbani with knowingly acting as agents of the government of Iran, providing services to Iran in violation of US sanctions on the country and conspiracy.

According to the indictment, in July 2017, Doostdar traveled to the US from Iran in order to collect intelligence information about entities and individuals considered by the government of Iran to be enemies of that regime, including Israeli and Jewish targets, and individuals associated with the MEK.

On July 21, 2017, Doostdar allegedly conducted surveillance of the Rohr Chabad House, a Jewish institution located in Chicago, including photographing the security features surrounding the facility.

On September 20, 2017, Ghorbani is alleged to have attended a MEK rally in New York City, during which he photographed individuals participating in the protest against the current Iranian regime.

In December 2017, Doostdar returned to the US from Iran and made contact with Ghorbani in the Los Angeles area.  During the meeting, Doostdar paid Ghorbani approximately $2,000 in cash and Ghorbani delivered to him 28 photographs taken at the MEK rally, many of which contained hand-written annotations identifying the individuals who appeared in the photos.  These photographs, along with a hand-written receipt for $2000, were found concealed in Doostdar’s luggage as he transited a US airport on his return to Iran in December 2017.

The indictment also alleges that Ghorbani traveled to Iran in March 2018 after informing Doostdar that he would be going to Iran to conduct an “in-person briefing.”

On May 4, Ghorbani attended the MEK-affiliated 2018 Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights in Washington, D.C.  During the course of the conference, Ghorbani appeared to photograph certain speakers and attendees, which included delegations from across the US.

On May 14, Doostdar called Ghorbani to discuss clandestine methods Ghorbani should use in order to provide this information to Iran.

The two are facing a maximum penalty for conspiracy of five years, the maximum penalty for acting as an agent of a foreign power of 10 years, and the maximum penalty for a violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 20 years.

Source: US Justice Department