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Former nonprofit prez pleads guilty to destroying papers

The former president of the nonprofit that acts as landlord to Woodside’s Razi school and is suspected of laundering money for the Iranian government pleaded guilty last week to destroying documents related to the case, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said.

Farshid Jahedi, 55, admitted to two counts of felony obstruction of justice last Thursday for destroying the documents in December 2008 after receiving a federal grand jury subpoena requesting records tying the nonprofit Alavi Foundation to Bank Melli Iran, which is owned by the Iranian government. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000, federal prosecutors said.

FBI agents saw Jahedi tossing out torn documents near his home in Ardsley, N.Y., Dec. 18, 2008, the day after he was subpoenaed and cautioned not to destroy any records, the U.S. attorney’s office said. He was arrested the next day.

“If you deliberately throw a wrench into the wheels of justice, you are not saving yourself but risking your freedom,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District in a statement.

The Alavi Foundation’s mission is to promote Persian language and culture in the United States. It is the successor to the Pahlavi Foundation, which was started by the American-backed shah of Iran before the Islamic revolution in that country toppled his administration and installed a government hostile to America.

Through a pair of holding companies, the foundation has a 60 percent ownership stake in an office tower at 650 Fifth Ave. in Manhattan, prosecutors said. The Iranian bank owns the other 40 percent, the U.S. attorney said.

Federal prosecutors have sought to seize a number of properties owned by the Alavi Foundation, including the building at 55-11 Queens Blvd. in Woodside that houses the Razi School, one of the largest Muslim schools in Queens. The Razi school has not been implicated at all in the federal case.

The U.S. attorney’s office has said the tenants of the Alavi properties would not necessarily be ousted. If the case proceeds and the properties are seized by the federal government, they will be sold at auction by the U.S. Marshals.

“The tenants and occupants remain free to use the properties as they have before today’s filing,” said spokesman Yusill Scribner. “There are no allegations of any wrongdoing on the part of any of these tenants or occupants.”

The Razi School provides classes meeting state Department of Education curriculum standards alongside lessons in Islamic faith. It has hosted several interfaith dialog sessions with other borough religious leaders in the wake of incidents like the 2006 publication of caricatures of the Muslim prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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