Five people were arrested on February 11 on suspicion of conspiring to sell sanctioned Iranian oil to a refinery in China, the U.S. Justice Department said in a news release.
Four suspects in Texas and one in New York were each charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
Between July 2019 and February 2020, four defendants -- Nicholas Hovan, 33, James Fuchs, 26, Robert Thwaites, 30, and Daniel Ray Lane, 38 -- allegedly conspired in Philadelphia and elsewhere to purchase the oil and sell it to a Chinese firm represented by 39-year-old Zhenyu Wang.
Lane allegedly offered to launder money through his company and the suspects agreed to use a Polish shell company as the seller of the illicit oil, according to the complaint.
Lane is the president of STACK Royalties, a Texas-based firm that sells oil and gas mineral rights to investment funds and private equity companies.
"With the goal of illegally enriching themselves, the defendants conspired for over eight months to devise a scheme to violate U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran, particularly the ban on foreign oil sales," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. "The sale of oil is the lifeblood of the Iranian economy. At the same time the United States was increasing its sanctions in order to pressure Iran to stop its malign activities, these defendants put greed ahead of country."
If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $1.25 million.