An Iranian-born American woman has been sentenced to four years in prison for providing financial support to a plot to kidnap dissident Iranian American activist Masih Alinejad, the Justice Department said Monday.
Niloufar Bahadorifar, 48, of Irvine, California, pleaded guilty in December to multiple charges, including conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions by giving material support to Iran.
The Justice Department said Bahadorifar was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams to four years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
“Bahadorifar provided financial support to a brazen plot intended to kidnap an Iranian human rights activist living in the United States whom the Iranian government has sought to silence for years,” U.S. attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.
Bahadorifar was convicted of laundering money into the United States from Iran that was used to pay for private investigators to conduct surveillance of Alinejad on behalf of an alleged Iranian intelligence agent, Mahmoud Khazein.
Khazein and three other alleged Iranian agents are wanted by the FBI in connection with the suspected plot to kidnap Alinejad, who lives in New York, and take her back to Iran.
Bahadorifar was accused of making cash deposits of more than $476,100 into accounts in the United States since 2019, structuring most of the deposits in increments of less than $10,000 to avoid detection by the U.S. financial authorities.
Bahadorifar was not accused of participating in the kidnapping conspiracy itself and her lawyers argued that she was an unwitting dupe.
“The government of Iran has shown that it will take extreme measures to silence dissidents and critics around the world exercising their lawful rights, including through the use of violence on U.S. soil,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said.
“We hold accountable an individual who violated U.S. sanctions by providing financial assistance that ultimately supported a failed kidnapping plot directed by the Iranian government.”
Alinejad, a VOA Persian TV host who is known for her criticism of Iran’s clerical regime, including its requirement that women wear veils, was also the target of a separate Tehran-backed assassination plot, according to U.S. authorities.
Iranian authorities have denied any involvement in the alleged plots targeting Alinejad.