Arrests, Sentencing in Conspiracy to Export Vacuum Pumps to Iran

July 30, 2011

Publication Type: 

  • International Enforcement Actions

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • United Arab Emirates


Wisconsin Project Staff

Three men were charged in January 2010 connection with a conspiracy involving the illegal exportation and smuggling of specialized vacuum pump equipment with nuclear applications from the United States to Iran. Jirair Avanessian, an Iranian-born chemical engineer living in Glendale, California, where he owned and operated an import-export company called XVAC, was arrested that month. Another suspect in the case, an Iranian named Amirhossein Sairafi, was arrested by German authorities. A third conspirator, Farhad Masoumian, also Iranian, remains at large.

According to the indictment, Avanessian received orders from Masoumian for certain items sought by individuals in Iran. Avanessian then purchased the vacuum pumps and related equipment in the United States and exported it to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), falsifying shipping documentation to disguise the nature and ultimate destination of the cargo. Sairafi received the goods in the UAE and re-shipped them to Iran, while Masoumian transferred several hundred thousand dollars to Avanessian’s U.S. bank account.  Avanessian pleaded guilty to the charges, and on July 6, 2011, he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.  Sairafi was extradited from Germany to the United States, pleaded guilty to the charges and, on March 7, 2011, was sentenced to 41 months' imprisonment.


[1] "Glendale Resident and Two Iranian Men Charged in Scheme to Illegally Export Technology to Iran Without a License," Press Release, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Los Angeles, January 13, 2010.

[2] Scott Glover, "Parts Sent to Iran Could Be Used for Nuclear Weapons Development," Los Angeles Times, January 14, 2010.

[3] Arrest on Indictment, U.S. v. Jirair Avanessian, January 11, 2010, U.S. District Court, Central District of California.

[4] Change of Plea, U.S. v. Jirair Avanessian, July 16, 2010, U.S. District Court, Central District of California.

[5] "Summary of Major U.S. Export Enforcement and Embargo Prosecutions: 2007 to the Present," Press Release, U.S. Department of Justice, March 2011, p. 9.

[6] Amended Judgment and Probation/Commitment Order, U.S. v. Amirhossein Sairafi, March 7, 2011, U.S. District Court, Central District of California.