2 men charged with being Iranian spies, monitoring Chicago Jewish centers

WASHINGTON -- Federal prosecutors announced charges Tuesday against two men accused of being spies for the Iranian government and conducting surveillance near the University of Chicago.

Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar and Majid Ghorbani were arrested earlier this month for allegedly working as spies for the Iranian government. Doostdar is a U.S. citizen. Ghorbani is a legal permanent resident of the United States.

“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,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement.

According to an indictment, the pair covertly monitored Israeli and Jewish facilities in the U.S. including the Rohr Chabad House, and the Hillel Center at the University of Chicago. The men are also accused of gathering information on members of an Iranian opposition group, and conducting surveillance on Americans in California, New York, Washington, DC and in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood.

“This alleged activity demonstrates a continued interest in targeting the United States, as well as potential opposition groups located in the United States,” said Michael McGarrity, acting executive assistant director of the FBI’s national security branch.

In an affidavit unsealed Monday, the FBI says it has significant evidence including phone calls and recorded conversations that show the two men have been in the United States multiple times since March of 2017 to spy on Americans while working for the government of Iran.

The FBI says the men first came to Chicago in July, 2017. Court records show one of them went to the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago and was moving, "though the museum in unusual fashion."

According to the complaint he was alone with a woman for a short time in the museum. The FBI saw the woman fold up a small piece of paper.

The men were caught carrying large sums of cash when they were arrested. Prosecutors say photos and information on American citizens – including members of Congress – were also discovered hidden in undergarments in one of their suitcases.

In court documents filed Tuesday, prosecutors said Ghorbani should stay in jail because “there is a grave risk” the Iranian government could help him escape from the United States. Prosecutors expressed concerns they could get in a diplomatic car. Ghorbani’s attorneys said that’s “nothing but fantasy.” The men are charged with acting as agents of Iran, violating U.S. sanctions, and conspiracy. They face decades in prison.

Ghorbani’s lawyers says he’s a server at a restaurant in Santa Ana, Calif., and has been for more than 20 years. He has no criminal record. They say the allegations against him are false and pure speculation.

Ghorbani allegedly told the FBI if he told them the “truth” about what he was doing in the US, they would not be able to protect him. Doostdar’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

Read the complete criminal complaints against the men below:

Criminal Complaint against Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar:

Criminal Complaint against Majid Ghorbani: