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Former University Of Miami Professor, His Wife, And His Sister Face Charges For Conspiracy And Money Laundering

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Long before Facebook made it possible for college students to spread rumors to the entire world in real time, students have been making up far-fetched rumors about what kinds of criminal activities their professors might be up to when they are not in class.  Perhaps when you were a student, you and your friends passed the time in a boring class by passing notes in which you invented a secret life for a professor or graduate student, where they supplemented their meager academic salaries with drug dealing, organized crime, or espionage.  In fact, a former University of Miami professor is currently facing charges for financial crimes, as well as for making false statements about his connections to a foreign country.  Here, our Miami white collar crimes defense lawyer explains how the professor, his wife, and his sister allegedly exported technology to Iran while attempting to keep U.S. authorities from finding out about it.

University of Miami Professor Allegedly Had a Secret Research Career in Iran

Academia and owning a family business are not mutually exclusive.  In February 2013, Mohammad Faghihi was hired as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.  One of the reasons that UM was so eager for Faghihi to join the faculty is his record of publications of his research on genetic sequencing.  During the seven years he worked at UM, Faghihi’s research team applied for and received three grants from the National Institutes of Health, in 2013, 2016, and 2017.

Meanwhile, at least as early as 2016, Faghihi established a company called Express Gene; his wife Farzaneh Modarresi and his sister Faezeh Faghihi also held leadership roles at the company.  Between 2016 and 2020, the company received $3.5 million in wire transfers from foreign countries, including China, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.  The company allegedly used the money to buy genetic sequencing machines, each of which costs about $200,000, and they allegedly sent these machines to Iran.  There is nothing illegal about conducting business with international clients, but Faghihi failed to disclose the extent of his business activities on the conflict-of-interest forms that he submitted to the university and to the NIH; universities and government entities require researchers to disclose any potential financial conflicts of interest on their annual reports.

The Charges: Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, Making False Statements, and Conspiracy

There is also nothing illegal about a professor getting out of South Florida in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially not when in-person classes are cancelled.  Faghihi traveled to Iran, returning to Miami on February 20, 2021.  When customs officials asked him about his visit to Iran, he said that he did not conduct research or engage in any professional activities there.  It now appears that this was not true.  According to the Local 10 news website, Faghihi was the director of a laboratory called Dr. Faghihi’s Medical Genetic Center at Shiraz University of Medical Science.

As of September 2021, Faghihi and his wife and sister are all facing criminal charges for their efforts to send genetic sequencing machines to Iran.  Faezeh Faghihi is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, smuggling goods into the United States, and making false statements.  She is currently on home confinement with GPS monitoring.  Modarresi is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, smuggling goods into the United States, and the unlawful export of goods to Iran.

Mohammad Faghihi is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, smuggling goods into the United States, unlawful export of goods to Iran, making false statements, and wire fraud.  He is being held without bond, since there is a substantial risk that he will flee to Iran.  He could face up to 108 months in prison if convicted of money laundering and up to 78 months in prison if found guilty of conspiracy.

Let Us Help You Today

The Internet is quick to vilify things it does not understand, including scientific research and the fact that a person can have family connections in more than one country, but all defendants in criminal cases have the right to tell their side of the story.  A South Florida financial crimes defense lawyer can help you if you are facing criminal charges for conspiracy or money laundering in connection with a legal business that provides useful services.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami for a free, confidential consultation about your case.

Resources:

dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9996367/Ex-University-Miami-professor-wife-charged-sending-genetic-sequencing-equipment-Iran.html

local10.com/news/local/2021/09/15/former-um-professor-charged-with-sending-equipment-to-iran/

justice.gov/opa/pr/florida-residents-charged-conspiring-violate-iran-sanctions-other-crimes

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