May 18, 2020

Iranians charged with money laundering and wire fraud conspiracy for helping compatriots evade US sanctions

On May 18, 2020, a six-count federal indictment against two Iranian nationals, Seyed Sajjad Shahidian and Vahid Vali, and the internet-based financial services company they operated, Payment24, was unsealed.  The criminal case was initiated in early 2017, and the indictment was originally issued in December 2018.

According to the indictment, beginning around 2009 Payment24 offered sanctions evasion services to Iranians, charging a fee to help them make prohibited purchases of computer software, software licenses and computer servers from US companies, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).  The evasion strategy included the use of PayPal accounts, fraudulent IDs, and false IP addresses based in the United Arab Emirates.  Iranian consumers were advised not to log into the US vendors’ websites using an Iranian IP address, and, according to the indictment, Shahidian, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Payment24, used false residency information and false passports to establish payment processing accounts with US-based companies.

Payment24, Shahidian, who was recently extradited from the United Kingdom to the US, and Vali, who remains at large, are charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States, and aggravated identity theft.

DOJ press release | Indictment