A poster lists Iranians who are wanted by the FBI for computer hacking, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, March 24, 2016. (AP)

By Hassan Jafari

January 9, 2021

The FBI has released the names of three Iranians who have been placed on its wanted list in connection with hacking and breaching United States national security. On January 6, 2021, the FBI placed the three men on a list already including three other Iranian men wanted for the same or similar crimes.

In September 2020, the three men were charged with attempting to steal information about the United States’ satellite and aerospace industries; the other three are linked to a well-known case from two years ago involving an American intelligence officer who had traveled to Iran.

The FBI alert was issued on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, and names the six wanted Iranians: Mohammad Paryar, Hossein Parvar, Behzad Mesri, Mohammad Bayati, Mohammad Reza Aspargham, and Saeed Pourkarim Arabi .

The names of Paryar, Parvar and Mesri have been in the media  for at least two years; Bayati, Aspargham, and Arabi appeared in headlines in September.

All six are accused of identity theft in collaboration with the Revolutionary Guards, and of hacking and attempting to hack into US computer networks, as well as the networks of other countries. Some of the accused were reported to have successfully accessed key information.

Information from the Satellite Industry Compromised

Saeed Pourkarim ArabiMohammad Reza Aspargham and Mohammad Bayati were first mentioned in an alert issued by the US Department of Justice on September 17, 2020.

According to the statement, in July 2015, the three men, who had links to the Revolutionary Guards and other Islamic Republic intelligence agencies, stole confidential data about US satellite and aerospace industry technologies,

The three men used the fake email addresses of American citizens working in the satellite and space industries to carry out their crimes. They corresponded with experts working in these field using the fake emails, eventually installing spyware on their computers.

According to a statement issued by the US Department of Justice, the group had a list of 1800 accounts of satellite and aerospace activists based in the United States, Britain, Australia, Israel and Singapore, and was in the process of contacting them.

The US Department of Justice said Saeed Pourkarim Arabi, a 34-year-old Revolutionary Guards agent, was the ringleader. three were based in Iran.

Bayati, Aspargham, and Arabi were all based in Iran.

New Horizon, Hollywoodism and former US Agent 

The other three men, Mohammad ParyarHossein Parvar and Behzad Mesri, had been known to the FBI since 2018.

Behzad Mesri is the most well known among them because of his links to the HBO Hack case, but all three people have links to Monica Elfriede Witt, who served as a counterintelligence officer in the US Air Force from 1997 to 2008. After leaving the Air Force, she continued to work on cases with the US Department of Defense on a contract basis.

The US Department of Justice released a statement on February 13, 2019, saying that Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, had traveled to Iran in February 2012 at the invitation of theNew Horizons [Ofogh No] Organization and participated in the “Cinema and Hollywood-ism” conference. During her visit, Islamic Republic security institutions established contact with her.

A year and a half later, she traveled to Iran again, and divulged confidential US National Defense information. While in Iran, she was provided with the necessary housing and equipment, and she is thought to have remained in the country.

Statements issued by the US Treasury and the Justice Department at the time also named two institutions, the New Horizons Organization and the Samavat Net Paygard Company, and 10 Iranians, including Mohammad Paryar, Hossein Parvar and Behzad Mesri.

The three men based their hacking and sabotage operations on the classified information provided by Witt.

The news emerged after senior US officials including Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers held a press call about “a national security-related action involving Iran.”

Speaking at a press conference in Washington DC, a senior official from the FBI’s National Security Branch said Witt had “actively sought opportunities to undermine the United States and support the government of Iran.”

It has emerged that Nader Talebzadeh, the head of Ofogh No, collaborated with the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, holding seminars and conferences to lure foreign experts, especially those with useful information, to Iran.

Talebzadeh, whose name appears on the US sanctions list, has held three “Cinema and Hollywood-ism” conferences inn recent years, as well as seven “New Horizon” conferences. The events attracted substantial interest from foreign talent, including well-known people such as Alexander Dugin, dubbed “the Kremlin’s thinker and Putin’s mentor,” and Sean Stone, the son of Oliver Stone.

However, many of these key people did not register their names on the guest list, and they stayed out of the public and media spotlight. Monica Witt was also not listed on the guest list for 2012, or 2011, the year before she was invited to Iran.

In addition to Talebzadeh, almost everyone related to Ofogh-e Noo and Samavat are on the US sanctions list.

Since Witt has settled in Iran, news and photographs of her have been published in Iranian media, usually referring to her by her adopted names (or aliases, as the FBI has identified them), Narges Witt and Fatemeh Zahra.

Iran Wire

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.