An Iranian woman who helped export restricted technology from the United States to her native country’s government was sentenced in federal court in Minneapolis this week to the 2 ¼ years she already served in prison and has been deported back to Iran.
Negar Ghodskani, 40, and others illegally obtained restricted communications circuitry from a company in Minnesota for shipment to a firm that supplies the government-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).
According to court records, Thief River Falls-based Digi-Key thought it was doing business with a Malaysian company when it shipped digital communications equipment to Green Wave Telecommunication in Kuala Lumpur. However, the materials were diverted to Iran by hiding the ultimate illegal destination and actual users of the technology.
Ghodskani was indicted in 2015 in Minnesota and arrested in Australia in 2017. Prosecutors had argued for a sentence between just shy of four years to nearly five years, but U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen agreed with the defense’s argument and sentenced her Tuesday to the time she has already served since her arrest.
Defense attorney Robert Richman said Wednesday that Ghodskani has been deported back to Iran, where she will be reunited with her husband of nearly nine years and 2-year-old son Nickan, who was born while she was jailed in Adelaide.
A letter submitted to the court a week ago by her husband, Ali Lotfisetan, recounted when she gave birth and spent three days in the hospital with her baby before having to hand the newborn over to her husband so she could resume her imprisonment.
“I went there with my mother-in-law,” Lotfisetan wrote. “She brought the baby out of the room with the officers around her, and they said time to go. She gave him to me, she wasn’t crying, but I cannot explain about the sound she … made at that time. It was so sad. Everybody like the nurses and cleaners were crying except [the] officers.”
The case involving Ghodskani, who pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to defraud the United States, drew worldwide headlines and caught the attention of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif after she was arrested while living in Australia. Zarif said “nobody was talking” about her, so he floated the idea of a prisoner swap involving Ghodskani and Westerners held in Iranian prisons.
Alireza Jalali, a co-conspirator and Green Wave’s former head of purchasing, was sentenced by the same judge in Minneapolis in March 2018 to 15 months in prison for his role in the shipments.
According to Ghodskani’s guilty plea and other court documents:
Ghodskani assisted in establishing in 2009 and operating Green Wave Telecommunication. Green Wave operated as a front for Fana Moj, an Iranian business that the FBI in Minneapolis said designed components for that nation’s military missile systems.
Fana Moj supplies microwave radio systems and wireless broadband access in Iran. Its principal customer was IRIB, which is controlled by the Iranian government.
From 2008 until 2011 and before she moved to Australia in 2012, Ghodskani falsely presented herself as an employee of Green Wave to U.S. companies in order to acquire unlawfully sensitive export-controlled technology from Digi-Key and two others in Massachusetts on behalf of Fana Moj.
Ghodskani and her co-conspirators concealed the destination and recipients of the exported technology through misstatements, illegal financial transactions and other means, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice. Both the IRIB and Fana Moj have been designated by the U.S. government as off-limits and placed on the “Specially Designated National” list as part of U.S. sanctions against Iran for its continued support of international terrorism.