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Friend: Man accused in Iranian plot is more 'Mr. Bean than 007'

By the CNN Wire Staff
October 17, 2011 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Manssor Arbabsiar is charged with conspiring to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
Manssor Arbabsiar is charged with conspiring to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Man earns nickname "Jack" for his affinity for the whiskey Jack Daniels
  • Friend says Manssor Arbabsiar is too disorganized to take part in a killing plot
  • He is accused of plotting to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States
  • Arbabsiar has had prior brushes with the law for minor infractions

(CNN) -- A man accused of an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States was too disorganized to have been a part of the scheme, a friend said.

Manssor Arbabsiar is accused of conspiracy to murder a foreign official, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.

Known as "Jack" because of his affinity for the whiskey Jack Daniels, the 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen wasn't much of a businessman, according to David Tomscha, who owned a car lot with him for about a year in 2000.

"If they wanted 007, I think they got Mr. Bean," Tomscha said.

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"He was very disorganized, he would lose most anything and he would get the dates of the cars wrong," Tomscha said. "He'd tell you it was an '89 and maybe it was an '85. One thing you could be sure, whatever date he told you, it wasn't that year."

The disorganization extended to his personal life.

"He wouldn't pay his bills, not because he didn't have the money necessarily, but because he would forget to pay them," Tomscha said. "If it wasn't for his wife, he'd be homeless on the street."

Earlier this week, another friend Mitchel Hamauei, who has known Arbabsiar for 20 years, said he didn't seem to have strong views on politics or religion.

"It was shocking because it didn't seem like he would be the type of person to do something like that," Hamauei said, adding that he met Arbabsiar through mutual Iranian friends.

Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, are accused of a conspiracy to murder a foreign official, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, the FBI said Tuesday.

Arbabsiar was arrested in September. Shakuri remains at large, the bureau said.

The two were in a group that began planning this spring to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir, the FBI said.

"I don't think he's the Manchurian candidate," said Tomscha. "He came over. He liked this country. He made money here."

Arbabsiar has had prior brushes with the law, but they were for minor infractions.

Public records show three arrests for Arbabsiar over the past 25 years. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail for evading arrest in 1987, and he pleaded "no contest" to a lesser charge in 2004 after he was arrested for driving on a suspended license. Arbabsiar also received a speeding ticket in 2007 for going more than 10 mph over the limit. A 2001 theft charge against Arbabsiar was dismissed, CNN affiliate KIII-TV reported.

According to the allegations he now faces, Arbabsiar and an undercover informant discussed using explosives to kill the Saudi ambassador and possibly attacking a crowded restaurant, according to an FBI affidavit released Tuesday.

The informant named $1.5 million as his price, it said.

Arbabsiar allegedly sent $100,000 intended as a down payment, telling the informant his "cousin" had deep pockets, court documents said.

"He didn't strike me as the kind of guy who would want to go out there and murder hundreds of innocent people," Tomscha said. "That takes a real callous person and he never stuck me like that."

CNN's Jim Spellman and Erin Burnett contributed to this report

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