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Md. businessman arrested; among six charged in Iranian satellite scheme

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 9, 2010; B05

A Montgomery County man who was president of a Maryland-based satellite company has been accused of illegally providing technology to his native Iran that resulted in the 2005 launch of an Iranian satellite, equipped with a camera, federal authorities in Maryland said Tuesday.

Nader Modanlo, 49, a U.S. citizen who once told The Washington Post he came to the United States to study science and engineering, was among six people charged in what authorities say was a years-long conspiracy to illegally provide technology and hardware to Iran in violation of a U.S. trade embargo. The indictment alleges that Modanlo received $10 million for his "assistance to Iran and the Iranians."

"The indictment alleges that the defendants violated the Iran trade embargo by creating a sham company to conceal the fact that they were providing goods, technology and services to Iran in return for millions of dollars," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

The indictment was handed down in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on June 2 and unsealed Tuesday. Modanlo was arrested Tuesday morning. The remaining five defendants, all Iranian nationals, are at large.

One of the Iranian defendants, Hamid Malmirian, 53, "held himself out in various capacities as an Iranian government representative," according to court records. Another, Sirous Naseri, 55, was an Iranian consultant to the International Telecommunication Union and a consultant to the Foreign Ministry in Iran.

According to court papers, beginning in January 2000, the defendants worked to create a scheme to evade the embargo. At the time, Modanlo was the principal owner and president of Lanham-based Final Analysis, a satellite company that aimed to establish a cluster of satellites to provide data communication to customers around the world, court papers state.

A 1999 Washington Post article identified Modanlo as a former NASA scientist who said he came to the United States from Iran to study at George Washington University. From 1979 to 1987, he said, he earned several degrees.

In the mid-1990s, the indictment states, Final Analysis entered into a contract with Polyot, an aerospace company owned by the Russian government. Polyot launched satellites for Final Analysis.

Beginning in about 2000, the indictment alleges, Modanlo brokered an agreement between Polyot and a "customer in Iran" to construct and launch a small low-Earth-orbit satellite. The following year, Polyot and Iranian officials reached a deal.

The alleged conspirators formed a company called Prospect Telecom to hide Iranian involvement, court papers state. On Oct. 27, 2005, according to court papers, Polylot launched a rocket that contained an Iranian satellite equipped with a camera.

The $10 million was wired to a bank account in Bowie that belonged to a business Modanlo had established, the indictment states.

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