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US

Californian pleads guilty to aiding Irani terrorist group

Prosecutors say man led immigration fraud ring

October 27, 1999
Web posted at: 1:08 p.m. EDT (1708 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- A California man pleaded guilty to aiding a terrorist group and to federal fraud and conspiracy charges. Prosecutors say Bahram Tabatabai operated an immigration fraud ring catering to Iranians, some of whom were members of the Mujahedin-E-Khalq, the main Iranian opposition group.

Mujahedin-E-Khalq, known as MEK, is believed to have been involved in violent incidents around the world, and is one of 30 groups the U.S. State Department has listed as international terrorist organizations.

On Monday, Tabatabai pleaded guilty in Los Angeles to violating a 1996 anti-terrorist law making it a crime to provide material support to State Department-designated terrorist groups.

The U.S. Attorney's office said it was the first conviction under the statute.

Catering to Iranians

Tabatabai was one of 11 people indicted by a Los Angeles federal grand jury in March as alleged members of an immigration fraud ring. Prosecutors called Tabatabai the ringleader.

The indictment alleged Tabatabai helped clients in the Middle East and Europe, including some alleged MEK members, file fraudulent documents in support of visa applications to enter the United States. The documents included fabricated birth certificates, bank records, employment records, wedding announcements, school transcripts and statements from applicants' relatives.

For clients who were already in the United States, Tabatabai would file fraudulent asylum applications with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, prosecutors said.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles said it has not uncovered any evidence that those associated with the MEK who entered the United States were linked with any terrorist incidents within the U.S. or against U.S. citizens abroad.

Tabatabai's guilty pleas to aiding a terrorist group carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The conspiracy charges are punishable by up to five years in jail.



RELATED STORIES:
Tehran says bombers of U.S. barracks in Saudi Arabia not in Iran
October 1, 1999

RELATED SITES:
U.S. State Department
Office of the Attorney General
US Immigration and Naturalization Service
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