Justice Department Announces Charges and Arrest in Two Separate Illicit Technology Transfer Schemes to Benefit Governments of China and Iran

Cases Mark One-Year Since Launch of Disruptive Technology Strike Force
February 7, 2024

Related Library Documents: 

In two separate cases out of U.S. Attorneys’ Offices on opposite coasts, several individuals are charged – one of whom was arrested yesterday – in connection with sophisticated schemes to transfer sensitive technology, goods, and information for the benefit of hostile foreign adversaries, in violation of U.S. law.

In the Eastern District of New York, two Iranian nationals are charged with conspiring to export equipment used in the aerospace industry to the Government of Iran, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), in connection with an alleged conspiracy to illegally export U.S. goods and technology without the required licenses.

In the Central District of California, a man was arrested for allegedly stealing trade secrets developed for use by the U.S. government to detect nuclear missile launches and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles.

“One year ago, I launched the Disruptive Technology Strike Force to strike back against adversaries trying to steal our nation’s most powerful technology and use it against us,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “Since then, working with our partners at the Commerce Department, we have arrested more than a dozen corporate executives, engineers, distributors, and other high-profile targets on charges that include sanctions and export control violations, and other offenses involving the unlawful transfer of sensitive information and technology. Today’s charges against three additional defendants for seeking to illegally transfer U.S. software and semiconductor technology with military applications to benefit Iran and China highlight the critical importance of our fight against this national security threat.”

“The FBI continues to take aggressive investigative action to hold accountable those who seek to violate sanctions and illegally provide sensitive technology to foreign adversaries,” said FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate. “Stealing U.S. trade secrets and technology, especially when it can be used for military purposes, will not be tolerated. We will continue to work closely with our partners in the Disruptive Technology Strike Force to stop such activity and protect the national security of the United States.”

“In its first year, the Disruptive Technology Strike Force has strengthened enforcement and disrupted numerous criminal schemes to smuggle highly-sensitive technology that foreign adversaries wield to advance their military and other malign agendas,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The cases announced today underscore the commitment of the Justice Department and our partners to disrupt illegal efforts to siphon off U.S. ingenuity and to safeguard American security and innovation. “

“In the just one year since the launch of the Disruptive Technology Strike Force, we’ve stood up over a dozen local investigative cells, opened scores of investigations, and brought criminal charges against more than a dozen individuals and companies associated with nation-state adversaries,” said Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew S. Axelrod. “Today’s announcement provides the latest example of our unwavering mission — keeping our country’s most sensitive technologies out of the world’s most dangerous hands.”

United States v. Bazzazi (EDNY)

​​​​​​According to court documents, between January 2008 and August 2019, Abolfazl Bazzazi, 79, of Iran, and his son Mohammad Resa Bazzazi, 43, of Iran, and their co-conspirators sought to evade U.S. sanctions and export laws by working to procure goods and technology, including aeronautical ground support equipment, ultraviolet flame detectors, and firefighting equipment, from U.S. companies for end users in Iran, including the Government of Iran, without obtaining the required licenses or other authorization from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
"As alleged, the Bazzazis devised an intricate scheme to evade U.S. export laws in obtaining U.S. equipment and technology to be exported to Iran and for the Government of Iran which has been designated by the United States government as a state sponsor of terrorism,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York. “The defendants allegedly attempted to obtain commercial and military aircraft items from multiple U.S. companies that supply the military, aerospace, and firefighting industries. These charges demonstrate the resolve of this office and the Department of Justice to prosecute those who seek to aid the Government of Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions.”

According to the indictment, the defendants sought to obtain components that could be used by Iran’s aerospace industry. Additionally, they disguised the final destination of U.S. goods by attempting to forward them through intermediaries in Europe and elsewhere. As alleged, the Bazzazis acted on behalf of the Government of Iran.

The Bazzazis are charged with conspiracy to violate the IEEPA, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison; and smuggling goods from the United States, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The defendants remain at large.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and FBI are investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Francisco J. Navarro, Jonathan P. Lax, Nomi D. Berenson, and Adam Amir for the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Adam Small of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.