Texans, New Yorker Accused of Selling Sanctioned Iranian Petroleum to Refinery in China

Four men have been indicted on charges of conspiracy, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and money laundering conspiracy based on their attempt to transact in sanctioned Iranian petroleum:

  • Nicholas Hovan, 34, of New York, NY;
  • Zhenyu Wang, aka “Bill Wang,” 39, of Dallas, TX;
  • Robert Thwaites, 30, of Dallas, TX; and
  • Daniel Ray Lane, 39, of McKinney, TX.

The indictment alleges that from May 2019 to February 2020, the defendants conspired in Philadelphia and elsewhere to arrange for the purchase of petroleum from the Islamic Republic of Iran, in violation of United States economic sanctions imposed on Iran, for sale to a refinery in the People’s Republic of China.  They also allegedly conspired to launder the proceeds of the sale through shell entities and offshore financial accounts to disguise the nature of the transaction.  The defendants are charged with conspiring to purchase sanctioned Iranian petroleum, to sell the petroleum to a Chinese refinery, to conceal the origin of the petroleum (including by bribing a Chinese official), and to obtain Antigua passports to open Swiss bank accounts through which the proceeds would be laundered.

In February 2020, the defendants were arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint.  As previously reported, the defendants planned two shipments of oil per month going forward, all for an expected profit of roughly $28 million-per-month.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum possible sentence of 45 years’ imprisonment, a $1.75 million fine, a three-year term of supervised release, and a $300 special assessment.