The arrest of an Alabama man, 69-year-old parts supplier Ray Hunt, for allegedly shipping American parts to Iran's energy sector comes amid heightened tensions between the US and Tehran. This was punctuated during a July 16, 2022, protest against President Joe Biden's visits to Israel and Saudi Arabia and ongoing American efforts to curb Iran's nuclear proliferation and the nation's support for Houthi rebels in Yemen.Photo by Atta Kenare/ AFP via Getty Images.
For the past seven years, an Alabama man violated US sanctions by secretly shuttling control valves, nozzles, and tubing to Iran’s oil and gas industry, according to a federal grand jury indictment.
Unsealed Tuesday, Nov. 29, in Huntsville, the 15-count indictment charges Ray Hunt, 69, of Owens Cross Roads, with conspiring to unlawfully ship the banned parts, without federal export licenses, to a pair of unnamed Tehran companies, by peddling falsified forms.
Born in Iran and naturalized as a US citizen, Hunt — also known as Abdolrahman Hantoosh, Rahman Hantoosh, and Rahman Natoosh — operated Vega Tools LLC, an Alabama company that resold industrial parts for the US manufacturing and energy sector.
If convicted on all counts, Hunt faces up to 40 years behind bars and a $1 million fine. Federal agents arrested him Tuesday and he made his initial court appearance on the same day.
US-Iranian tensions remain high over a range of issues, including Tehran's ongoing crackdown on women protesting a lack of civil rights in the Middle Eastern nation. Here, a woman wears a T-shirt bearing the word "Execution" in Persian, as she takes part in a rally in support of Iranian women in Istanbul, on Nov. 26, 2022. Photo by Yasin Akgul/ AFP via Getty Images.
Attempts by Coffee or Die Magazine to reach Hunt by email and on his phone were unsuccessful.
No attorney has been entered for him on the federal docket, and it remains unclear if he’s still in federal custody.
To skirt sanctions, Hunt would purchase the parts from US companies and then pass the packages to transhippers located in United Arab Emirates and Turkey to bring to Iran, according to his indictment.
Prosecutors say he’d also fill out bogus export paperwork, lying to freight companies about the contents of parcels and the true value of the goods being forwarded to Iran.
US-Iranian tensions remain high, sparked partly by American economic sanctions designed to curb a Tehran crackdown on women seeking increased civil rights. Here, a woman holds a placard during a rally in support of the demonstrations in Iran, at The Place de la Republique in Paris, on Oct. 29, 2022. Iranian Mahsa Amini, 22, died in custody on Sept. 16, 2022, three days after her arrest by the notorious morality police in Tehran for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic's strict dress code for women. (Photo by Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP via Getty Images.
It remains unclear how many parts Hunt allegedly smuggled to Iran. Federal investigators listed only five transactions between late 2017 and late 2019 that added up to nearly $51,823 in purchase orders.
Hunt’s indictment came during heightened tensions between the US and Iran, highlighted by tightening federal sanctions on Tehran’s banking, energy, military, and nuclear sectors.
The latest round of financial penalties are designed to help curtail Iran’s treatment of ethnic and religious minorities; the Islamic Revolutionary regime’s crackdown on women protesters; Tehran’s materiel transfers to aid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; and the government’s support to Middle Eastern terrorist organizations.
Carl Prine is a senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He previously worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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