Former U.S. Satellite Exec Charged with Aiding Iranian Program

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WASHINGTON — The president of a defunct U.S. satellite communications firm and five Iranian citizens have been charged with conspiracy and other crimes for allegedly facilitating the construction and launch in 2005 of a satellite for Iran, U.S. federal court documents show.

Iranian-born Nader Modanlo, a 49-year-old U.S. citizen from Potomac, Md., allegedly received $10 million for brokering a deal to have a Russian government-owned company build and launch an imaging satellite for Iran, according to a federal indictment unsealed June 8. Modanlo was the president and chairman of Final Analysis Inc., a company that launched several experimental satellites a decade ago and planned to raise $400 million to build a constellation of 38 commercial messaging and asset-tracking satellites. 

Modanlofaces up to 85 years in prison on charges of conspiracy, money laundering and violation of the Iran Trade Embargo, according to a June 8 press release from the office of U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.Modanlo was arrested June 8.

Five Iranian citizens who remain at large were also charged. Reza Heidari, 52, Mohammad Modares, 44, and Abdol Reza Mehrdad, 43, each face up to 25 years on charges of conspiracy and money laundering, the press release said. HamidMalmirian, 53, and SirousNaseri, 55, face up to five years on conspiracy charges.

In 1995, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton issued an executive order imposing a trade embargo on Iran, citing Iranian policies and actions that posed a threat to U.S. national security. U.S. citizens have since been barred from exporting, selling or supplying goods, technologies or services to Iran without U.S. Treasury Department authorization. 

According to the indictment, the six men concocted a scheme from 2000 through 2007 to evade the trade embargo by setting up a sham company in another nation to conceal Iranian involvement.

Modanloco-founded Lanham, Md.-based Final Analysis in 1992, and in 1994 the company tapped the Russian government-owned aerospace company Polyot to build and launch a low Earth orbiting communications satellite. Polyot built and launched a total of three satellites for Final Analysis by 2000, including one — Faisat-1 launched in early 1995 — that hosted a technology experiment for the U.S. Air Force.

In 2000, Modanlo brokered an agreement between Polyot and an Iranian customer to build and launch a communications satellite with a camera, which violated the Iranian embargo, the indictment said. The satellite was launched from Russia in October 2005.

Meanwhile, creditors petitioned to have Final Analysis put into bankruptcy in 2001, shortly after which Modanlo established New York Satellite Industries LLC to purchase Final Analysis’ assets, the indictment said. Around the same time, Modanlo and four of his alleged co-conspirators traveled to an unidentified country to establish the firm Prospect Telecom, according to the indictment. In 2002, Prospect Telecom wired $10 million to Modanlo’s New York Satellite Industries bank account, the indictment said. Prospect Telecom’s Iranian identity was concealed by issuing most of the company’s stock to people of other nationalities, it said. 

Final Analysis’ bankruptcy “remained pending at all times relevant to this case,” the indictment said, while Modanlo personally filed for bankruptcy in 2006 and New York Satellite Industries filed for bankruptcy in 2006.

According to the indictment, Modanlo received science and engineering degrees from the George Washington University here and managed space and science programs for NASA and the Defense Department. NASA does not have any records of employment for Modanlo, but the agency’s electronic records date back to only 1992, NASA spokeswoman Katherine Trinidad said in an e-mail.