On March 6, 2012, the former head of an Oregon charity that funded schools in Iran was sentenced to one year of home detention for violating a U.S. trade embargo law. Despite an eight-year investigation by the FBI trying to associate Mehrdad Yasrebi and the Child Foundation with terrorism, U.S. District Judge Garr M. King said the government failed to prove that either had ties with terrorists. The judge ordered Yasrebi to pay a $50,000 fine and serve five years of probation, and the Child Foundation, also charged with violating the embargo, was sentenced to two years on probation and a $50,000 fine. Yasrebi plead guilty in January 2011 to sending funds to Iran and attempting to cover up the transfer of money.
In 2000, Yasrebi had sent the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) an 86-page letter describing his intentions, but did not receive a response. Another inquiry in 2001 was also left unanswered. According to The Oregonian
, “an OFAC internal memo directed employees not to respond, in order not to compromise a possible criminal indictment.”
"If they had told him in 2000, 'Stop,' then nothing would ever have happened," says David Angeli, Yasrebi’s lawyer
Prosecutors alleged that some of the money raised by the charity went to a controversial cleric in Iran. But Yasrebi’s lawyer and Judge King said the government did not produce evidence that Yasrebi or the charity were involved in funding terrorism.
“At the outset, agents were driven by concerns that Dr. Yasrebi and (the charity) were funneling money into Iran to support terrorism,” said Angeli. He said an eight-year investigation by the FBI included wiretaps, foreign travel and a late-night “sneak and peek” inside the charity. The charity was raided by government officials in 2008.
Yasrebi admitted that he had violated U.S. economic sanctions by sending money into Iran to pay for school tuition and other expenses. Additionally, he attempted to cover it up by falsifying documents to deceive the U.S. government.
“I jeopardized the foundation and its mission, and caused a lot of pain and difficulty for many innocent people,” he said.
Yasrebi is no longer associated with the foundation, which released a statement on March 5
saying it has “adopted measures to ensure that our current and future operations are fully compliant with all legal requirements.”