Texas Men Receive Prison Sentences for Attempting to Sell Sanctioned Iranian Petroleum to China

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — Two Texas men have been sentenced to prison for their attempts to contravene these regulations. The defendants, identified as Zhenyu “Bill” Wang and Daniel Ray Lane, were convicted in a trial held in November 2023, and their sentences were delivered on Tuesday.

United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero confirmed the verdict, handed down by United States District Judge Harvey Bartle III. Both Wang, a Chinese national, and Lane, a US citizen, will serve 45 months each in federal custody. The judgment includes an additional three-year period of supervised release for both men.

Earlier last year, two of their co-conspirators, Nicholas Fuchs and Robert Thwaites, received ten-month sentences, and another, Nicholas Hovan, was given a 12-month sentence.

Wang and Lane were found guilty of attempting to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), alongside charges of conspiracy to breach the IEEPA and to launder money. Their offenses were based on their efforts to handle petroleum products sanctioned by US regulations against Iran by altering product origins and reselling the products to Chinese buyers.

The defendants, between July 2019 and February 2020, strategized methods of side-stepping US-imposed economic sanctions against Iran. Their plan involved the acquisition of Iranian oil, disguising its origins, and selling the oil under false pretenses to buyers in China.

In this elaborate scheme, Wang worked as a vital link, establishing the contract between the Iranian suppliers and the Chinese buyers. His role involved negotiations with multiple contacts in China, securing a formal offer from a Chinese buyer, and facilitating the completion of the sale.

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Interestingly, as part of their plan, they had intended to ship 500,000 barrels of the sanctioned Iranian oil, escalating the volumes to 1 or 2 million barrels per month for a year or over. The conspirators anticipated substantial profits from their activities, looking at earning approximately $1.5 million for each 500,000-barrel shipment of oil, for instance.

Both Wang and Lane comprehended and openly acknowledged that their dealings were in direct contravention of US sanctions on Iran. Wang, in fact, attributed his potential profits to the existence of the sanctions, stating that sanctions “make everybody money.”

US Attorney Romero, in her statement, emphasized the grave consequences of violating sanctions laws. She indicated that their scheme would have indirectly fortified Iran, a foreign adversary, negating the American national interests and security measures.

Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Philadelphia, Wayne A. Jacobs, further used the sentencing as a stern warning against trying to violate national security-related sanctions for personal gain. He affirmed that such illicit activities would be thwarted and punished appropriately.

The prosecution of the case was executed by Assistant United States Attorneys Patrick J. Murray and Mary E. Crawley, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducting the investigation.

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