MINNEAPOLIS – An Iranian national who pleaded guilty in 2009 to plotting to ship sensitive U.S. military technology to Iran has been deported back to his home country, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department confirmed Tuesday.
Amir Hossein Ardebili was deported to Iran last week after he had completed his prison sentence, State spokesman Noel Clay said.
Ardebili, 38, was sentenced to five years in prison, with credit for time served, after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court in Delaware to charges including conspiracy, money laundering, smuggling and arms export control violations. At the time, U.S. officials said his case was an example of Iran's efforts to evade export controls and acquire critical military technology amid a long-running standoff with the West over its nuclear program.
Prosecutors wrote in court documents that Ardebili admitted he was assisting Iran in preparing for war with the United States. Court papers also said that during a 2007 meeting with an undercover agent, Ardebili said he wanted a lot of material so "the government (of Iran) could defend ... Because they think the war is coming."
According to Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke, Ardebili was first assigned to a facility in Pennsylvania, then moved to the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., in February 2010. He finished out his sentence in Minnesota and was released last month.
His attorney, Edmund Lyons, said he was not surprised by word of Ardebili's deportation. He said he understood that Ardebili would be deported because he had been released from prison and was in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A spokesman for ICE could not immediately confirm Ardebili's deportation.
According to court papers, Ardebili worked as a procurement agent for the Iranian government and acquired thousands of components, including military aircraft parts, night vision devices, communications equipment and Kevlar. Federal authorities targeted him in 2004 after he contacted an undercover storefront set up in Philadelphia to investigate illegal arms trafficking. Authorities said his primary interest was in obtaining electrical components with military applications, as well as replacement computer systems to update Iran's fleet of aging F-4 fighter aircraft.
After years of telephone and email communications with undercover agents, Ardebili agreed to meet with them in the Republic of Georgia in October 2007 and he was arrested. He was extradited to the U.S. in 2008.
After three American hikers were detained in Iran in 2009, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hinted they could be swapped for Iranians in U.S. prisons, and he drew a link to Ardebili's case. Sarah Shourd was released after 14 months in prison, while Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were held for more than two years before being freed on bail.
Clay said Tuesday: "We don't see any link between this case and cases involving the unjust detention of U.S. citizens in Iran."