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Iranians Blame Each Other For Alleged Smuggling Scheme

September 30, 1988

BOSTON (AP) _ A father and son accused of trying to smuggle spare missile parts to their native Iran blamed each other in opening arguments in their federal trial here Thursday.

U.S. Customs agents arrested Ahmad and Majid Modarressi in January at a suburban Boston railyard where they allegedly had come to buy $280,000 worth of electronic tubes for Hawk anti-aircraft missiles.

An attorney for the father, Ahmad Modarressi, 64, of Tehran, Iran, and Istanbul, Turkey, told the jury that Majid, 30, arranged the deal and never told his father it was illegal.

But an attorney for the son, who lives in Cincinnati with his American wife, maintained that he acted only as a translator for his father and was ″a very naive person″ who did not understand what the elder Modarressi was trying to buy and ship to Iran.

Defense attorneys said after the court session that they hoped the jury would clear both men.

″I guess the best possible outcome would be if they found Majid was just an airhead and (the elder) Modarressi didn’t know it was illegal,″ said Hugh Scott, attorney for the father.

The defense attorneys had asked for separate trials but the motion was denied by U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf.

The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Sterns, said the Modarressis were arrested after a four-month investigation in which a customs agent had posed as an official of the Raytheon Corp. of Lexington, maker of the Hawk missile parts.

The agent, Steve Crogan, recorded more than a dozen conversations with the Modarressis in which they talked about buying up to $60 million of U.S. weapons but eventually settled on the four electronic tubes worth $280,000 Sterns said.

The Modarressis entered the courtroom together, left together and sat together during the opening arguments. If convicted of conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act, each could face up to 15 years in prison, a $1.25 million fine and deportation.

Sterns said the electronic Klystron and Twystron tubes, each of which is about 4 feet long and 6 inches in diameter, are used in a mobile radar that is integral to the Hawk system, a missile the Iranians could use to shoot down aircraft.

Owen Walker, the federal public defender representing Majid Modarressi, said ″these kind of tubes are used in practically ... every radar system, every TV station, every radio station. There’s nothing uniquely or inherently military about them.″

Walker said the younger Modarressi came to the United States in 1976 to study architectural drafting, married his wife, Alicia, in 1982 and settled in Ohio, where he works as an architectural consultant.

The elder Modarressi was described by defense attorneys as an international merchant who has dealt in shoes and pistachios and had briefly discussed becoming Raytheon’s Middle East sales representative in 1984.