On September 14, 2021, Florida residents Mohammad Faghihi, his wife Farzeneh Modarresi, and his sister Faezeh Faghihi were all charged in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida with various crimes in connection with alleged violations of Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR) and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), including conspiracy to commit money laundering among others. According to the complaint, between 2013 to 2020, Faghihi worked as an Assistant Professor in the University of Miami’s (UM) Miller School of Medicine and in 2016 opened Express Gene LLC, a genetic-testing company in Florida that received almost $3.5 million in wire transfers from accounts around the world, including Malaysia and the People’s Republic of China. A portion of these funds was allegedly used by Faghihi to purchase genetic sequencing equipment from a US manufacturer that was shipped to Iran in 2017 without first obtaining a license from the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were alerted to Faghihi’s activities during a February 20, 2021 inspection of his luggage at Miami International Airport upon his arrival from Iran, when officers discovered 17 vials containing unknown biological substances concealed in his luggage – vials that officers ultimately discovered contained regulated substances. Faghihi allegedly made false statements to CBP officers indicating that he did not practice his profession or conduct any type of research in Iran when, according to the affidavit in support of the complaint, Faghihi was actually the director of a lab at Shiraz University of Medical Science in Iran that bears his name. A search of Faghihi’s cell phone, conducted pursuant to a signed search warrant, revealed messages related to the alleged sanctions violations as well as discussions related to the covert transportation of goods into and out of the US and funds sent to the US through apparent shell companies.
Arraignments and preliminary examinations for all three defendants were set for September 29, 2021.