Granted it's a little vague, but Child Foundation sounds like a perfectly respectable name for a nonprofit international aid organization. After all, who doesn't want to help children? But according to federal prosecutors, the Portland-based group was responsible for illegally sending millions of dollars to Iran. And rather than using the money for humanitarian work, three people affiliated with the foundation are accused of investing in real estate and other ventures and financially supporting a radical ayatollah.
According to court documents, the trio made substantial donations to Child Foundation. With the money, the organization and its partners "purchased goods and services," "made investments," and "exported goods and bulk agricultural commodities" such as rice and corn oil to Iran, in violation of the U.S. trade embargo with the country.
They are also charged with overstating the amount of the donations and backdating receipts in order to cheat on their taxes.
It's not just chump change that was changing hands. According to the indictment, the organization was responsible for wiring at least $5.3 million to Iran between 1997 and 2008.
Another man, Mherdad Yasrebi, is accused of conspiring to split the proceeds of some of the donations with Iran's Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi. Shirazi is a supporter of Hezbollah, the documents say, and also a Holocaust denier who spoke out against President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's proposal to allow women in the country's soccer stadiums, according to Wikipedia.
Lahiji and Vahid have pleaded not guilty to the charges. In an official statement, Child Foundation's Board of Directors denied any wrongdoing, saying "the charges are based solely on alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran and provisions of the U.S. treasury tax codes which set unprecedented difficulties for any organization or individual in America providing humanitarian aid to people living in politically unpopular nations."
The court documents, however, tell a different story. When they realized investigators were onto them, Iranshahi and Yesrabi allegedly tried to cover their tracks by falsifying documents because "even a fool could tell" from existing reports that they were illegally sending money to Iran.