Philadelphia/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on June 12, 2024
Two Texans Sentenced for Conspiring to Sell Iranian Oil to China, Defying U.S. SanctionsSource: Unsplash/ Emiliano Bar

Two Texas men, Zhenyu "Bill" Wang and Daniel Ray Lane, have been sentenced to 45 months in federal prison each for their part in a plot to sell Iranian petroleum to a Chinese buyer, in direct violation of U.S. sanctions. According to a U.S. Attoney's Office from the office of United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero, aside from the prison time, the defendants will also face three years of supervised release after their incarceration.

The duo, convicted in November 2023, attempted to knowingly and willfully evade the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by conspiring to engage in and bring to completion an elaborate scheme involving the purchase and sale of sanctioned oil. Their strategy also involved money laundering to facilitate and ultimately hide their unlawful transaction. Alongside three other conspirators, Wang tried to broker a deal by leveraging his Chinese connections to find willing buyers, while Lane was set to help in turning those dirty profits clean again, going so far as to purchase a money counting machine to handle the expected influx of cash from their operations.

From July 2019 through February 2020, the group's communications and actions were designed to obfuscate the origin of the oil and disguise the entire orchestra of illegality from U.S. authorities. Their intricate plan was doomed from the start, as federal investigators got wind of their intentions. According to U.S. Attorney's Office, the conspirators believed they could profit enormously from their scheme and had plans to escalate their operations to shipments of 1 to 2 million barrels a month after starting with a 500,000-barrel transaction.

The gravity of their crimes is underscored by the fact that they intended to benefit Iran—a nation under U.S. sanctions due to concerns about activities contrary to the interests of national security. "It's one thing to be entrepreneurial and take risks, but when your business plan hinges on evading U.S. sanctions, you're doing it wrong," U.S. Attorney Romero stated regarding the case. FBI Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs also added, "In seeking personal profits, these co-conspirators attempted to violate sanctions put in place to protect the United States’ national security." Both comments reflect an uncompromising stance on upholding sanctions laws, as per U.S. Attorney's Office.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was the lead agency in exposing the illicit plot with Assistant United States Attorneys Patrick J. Murray and Mary E. Crawley at the helm of the prosecution. The sentences handed down serve as a stern reminder to any similarly motivated individuals that the U.S. government remains steadfast in its commitment to enforcing its sanctions regime and that those who choose to willfully break these laws will face serious consequences.