Nov 17 (Reuters) – A U.S. jury has convicted two Texas men of trying to sell Iranian petroleum in violation of sanctions imposed by Washington and of conspiracy to commit money laundering, the Justice Department said on Friday.
Zhenyu Wang, 42, and Daniel Ray Lane, 42, were found guilty on Wednesday, and each face a maximum penalty of 45 years in prison. The two men had planned to purchase petroleum from Iran, mask its origins, and then sell it to a refinery in China, the department said in a statement.
Lane was president of privately held Stack Royalties, a Texas-based company that sells oil and gas mineral rights to investment funds and private equity groups.
Lane’s attorney, Paul Hetznecker, told Reuters in a statement that the case was based on undercover government agents who offered Lane “millions of dollars in profits” if he took part in the scheme, after initially rebuffing their approaches.
“This is an outrageous example of government overreach,” Hetznecker said in a statement. He vowed to appeal the conviction.
An attorney for Wang did not respond to a request for comment.
The pair were charged, along with three others, in 2020 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Two co-conspirators have since pleaded guilty, court records showed.
“The Justice Department will not tolerate those who would violate U.S. sanctions and imperil our national security for personal profit,” said Matt Olsen, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, in a statement.
China is the world’s only major importer of Iranian oil despite sanctions former U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally reimposed on Tehran’s petroleum exports in 2018 after withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers.
The pair are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 29, 2024.
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil and Andrew Goudsward; Writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Richard Chang, William Maclean, Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)