BY LINDA BENTLEY | JANUARY 11, 2012
The good moral character of foreign-born felons
‘No alien has the slightest right to naturalization unless he strictly complies with all statutory requirements’
PHOENIX – Back in July 2011 we printed an article titled “Who is Geno Riley and why is he saying all those nasty things about us?”
In that article we mentioned Riley’s former landlord Eskandar Khamooshpour, about whom we promised would be the subject of a future article.
Khamooshpour owned two homes on Lowden Drive near 69th Street in Scottsdale, one in which he lived and one which he used as a rental property. He also owned investment property on Mockingbird Lane in Paradise Valley and a co-op apartment in New York City.
Khamooshpour is an Iranian national who arrived in the United States in 1978 on a teaching scholarship and to pursue graduate studies in physics.
In July 1980, while living in New York, Khamooshpour met and married Enid Feld, a U.S. citizen.
Khamooshpour was then able to become a permanent legal resident in December 1981.
He separated from Feld in 1983 and the marriage ended upon Feld’s death from Hodgkin’s disease in September 1984.
Khamooshpour moved to Arizona in 1993 where he worked full time in a family-owned business that facilitated the transfer of funds between the United States and Iran.
He was arrested in 2001 and indicted on 285 counts related to the operation of that business.
Khamooshpour was accused of illegally transmitting close to $30 million to Iran over a three-year period, money laundering, running an illegal money transmitting business, violating the economic embargo with Iran, and failure to report foreign bank and financial accounts.
In January 2002, after spending two months in jail as a pretrial detainee, Khamooshpour was ordered to surrender his passport and was released with an electronic monitoring device pending trial.
Khamooshpour entered a plea agreement in July 2004 to one count of violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, Aid and Abet and one count of failure to report foreign financial accounts, both class C felonies.
In June 2007, Khamooshpour was sentenced to five years probation on each count to run concurrently. He was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine and a $200 assessment fee.
His interest in six bank accounts totaling $69,006, were ordered forfeited to the United States, while the court ordered the remaining 283 counts dismissed.
In April 2009, not even two years into his probation, Khamooshpour filed and was granted his motion to terminate his probation.
Attorney Michael Kimerer argued, because of his client’s cooperation, Khamooshpour was on supervised release for nearly eight years before being sentenced, during which time he actively performed as a “model probationer” and was something the court considered when granting him a sentence of probation.
Kimerer said Khamooshpour’s probation officer confirmed all restitution had been paid and indicated he had no objection to early termination of probation, and stated, “He has served nearly one half of his probationary period and would like to be terminated early because it will have a positive impact on his immigration status.”
Khamooshpour applied for naturalization in February 2007.
He married Somahyeh Doukhtehchizadehazimi, a citizen of Iran, in Scottsdale in July 2006.
Doukhtehchizadehazimi was residing in the United States on an F-1 student visa at the time and filed an application for permanent residency, which it appears may still be pending.
In March 2009, the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied Khamooshpour’s application for naturalization.
Khamooshpour appealed that decision and the court conducted an evidentiary hearing in January 2011.
The court found Khamooshpour “to be somewhat credible, although at times his testimony was evasive and strained credibility.”
Other than his 2007 felony convictions for crimes related to his family’s money exchange business, Khamooshpour’s application showed he was otherwise eligible for naturalization.
In August 2009, however, USCIS determined Khamooshpour could not establish the requisite good moral character necessary for naturalization because of that conviction and denied his application.
Khamooshpour filed a request for a hearing, which was held before an adjudications officer in November 2009, but it was again denied in March 2010 because USCIS again concluded his conviction during the statutory period barred him from “establishing the good moral character requisite for naturalization.”
Khamooshpour sought judicial review in June 2010 and during an evidentiary hearing in January 2011 he presented evidence of his good moral character.
The primary factor relevant to Khamooshpour’s moral character determination was his 2007 conviction.
The court noted Khamooshpour lacked the proper license to facilitate such transactions, although he conducted his business openly and advertised in Iran, while also maintaining financial accounts in Iran related to the business, which he unlawfully failed to report to the United States.
Other factors, although outside the statutory period of five years immediately prior to filing an application for establishing good moral character, included an incident in 1980 when Khamooshpour traveled to California to recover a debt owed to his family.
During his visit, Khamooshpour said he was told Chulla Vista was a good place to visit for shopping and sightseeing.
Khamooshpour claimed he went to Chulla Vista, Calif., a city halfway between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, and somehow accidentally crossed the border into Mexico.
Because he had a student visa in his passport at the time, there was nothing unlawful about Khamooshpour leaving the United States, whether intentional or not.
However, when he attempted to reenter the United States at the San Ysidro, Calif. port of entry, he was informed by U.S. Customs officials a presidential order prevented Iranian citizens from reentering the United States due to the hostage situation in Iran and was denied entry.
While detained overnight in Tijuana, Mexico, Khamooshpour contacted Feld. Feld hired a lawyer who arranged for him to be paroled into the United States.
Khamooshpour failed to attend his scheduled exclusion hearing because he married Feld in the interim, which allowed him to obtain permanent legal residency.
In 1984, Khamooshpour reported being detained by police in Iran when he traveled there to collect $100,000 owed to his family’s money exchange business.
He was detained for two months because his family’s currency exchange business was illegal in Iran as well and was only released after the Iranian government seized $100,000 from his family’s business.
Khamooshpour was also sentenced to two months in jail in New York in 1990 on a contempt of court charge relating to an apartment building he purchased in 1985.
After convincing all but one of the tenants to move out, the remaining tenant filed a civil complaint for his failure to comply with various housing code requirements.
Khamooshpor was ordered by the court to make various improvements and repair hazardous conditions in the building and was held in contempt after failing to comply after one year.
He was assessed civil penalties totaling $750,000, although a settlement agreement was reached and he was not ultimately required to pay that amount, and was released after spending 20 days in jail.
In denying his application, the court concluded, “No alien has the slightest right to naturalization unless he strictly complies with all statutory requirements” and stated the applicant carries the burden of proving his “eligibility for citizenship in every respect … Any doubts about an applicant’s eligibility for citizenship should be resolved in favor of the United States and against the claimant.”
On Dec. 24, 2011, Khamooshpour filed a voluntary Chapter 11 petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court indicating he has close to $5 million in non-priority unsecured debt.