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Iranian spies targeted political foes, Jewish group in Hyde Park, feds charge

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An Iranian-American man was arrested in Chicago earlier this month and charged with spying on Israeli and Jewish facilities in the area and collecting information on Americans associated with a political group that advocates for the overthrow of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s regime.

A federal complaint that was unsealed Monday charged 38-year-old Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar with conspiracy, acting as an unregistered foreign agent and providing services to Iran that violate U.S. sanctions. Majid Ghorbani, a 59-year-old Iranian citizen who lives in California, also was charged.

Both men were arrested on Aug. 9, according to a statement from the Department of Justice. Doostdar was arrested in Chicago, while Ghorbani was taken into custody in Los Angeles, California, according to ABC-7 News.

“The National Security Division is committed to protecting the United States from individuals within our country who unlawfully act on behalf of hostile foreign nations,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Demers said in a statement. “Doostdar and Ghorbani are alleged to have acted on behalf of Iran, including by conducting surveillance of political opponents and engaging in other activities that could put Americans at risk. With their arrest and these charges, we are seeking to hold the defendants accountable.”

According to the criminal complaint, Doostdar traveled to Chicago last July and conducted surveillance at Rohr Chabad, a Jewish student center at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park, where he allegedly took photographs of security features surrounding the facility.

That same day, Doostdar also visited the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago, where he “moved through the museum in an unusual fashion” and met with an unidentified female, according to the complaint.

Last September, Ghorbani allegedly conducted surveillance at a rally in New York City led by Mojahedin-e Khalq, of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, a political-militant organization that advocates for the overthrow of the current regime in Iran, the complaint said.

Doostdar later met with Ghorbani in December and paid him $2,000 after Ghorbani delivered 28 photographs he had taken at the rally, many of which included notes identifying individuals, according to the complaint.

The photos and a receipt for $2,000 were later found during a search of Doostdar’s luggage as he traveled from the U.S. to Iran that same month, the complaint said.

On May 18, Ghorbani also took photographs of certain speakers and attendees of the 2018 Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights in Washington, D.C., an event associated with Mojahedin-e Khalq, according to the Justice Department.

Ghorbani is scheduled to appear for a detention hearing Tuesday morning in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department said.