published Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Former Dalton manufacturing owner sentenced to 18 months in federal prison

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    A U.S. District Court judge sentenced a Dalton, Ga., company’s CEO to 18 months in prison for violating the country’s trade embargo on Iran. Mark Mason Alexander sold water-jet cutting machines (machines that use high water pressure to cut through metal and other tough surfaces) to a pair of Iranian companies, a violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

The former CEO of a Dalton manufacturing business will go to prison for 18 months for violating the United States' trade embargo on Iran.

After a jury convicted Mark Mason Alexander in September on a charge of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy sentenced Alexander to a year and a half in prison. After that, according to a news release, Alexander will be out on supervised release for three years.

According to an indictment, Alexander used to own 55 percent of Hydrajet Technology, located at 2473 Lakeland Road in Dalton. Alexander was also the CEO of another company: Hydrajet Mena, located in the United Arab Emirates.

Both companies sold water jet cutters, which are tools that pump out high-pressure streams of water that can slice through metal, glass and granite. According to court filings, the machines can cost $150,000-$180,000.

Between October 2006 and June 2008, according to the indictment, Alexander tried to sell machines to two Iranian businessmen: Karim Babakhani, who worked for an engineering and trading company, and Ali Shojaie, the managing director for an import and export trading company.

In August 2007, according to the indictment, two water jet cutting machines were shipped to Alexander's United Arab Emirates company. Then, 10 months later, one of that company's employees installed those machines in Iran.

"We will continue to work aggressively with our law enforcement partners including Homeland Security Investigations, Atlanta Field Office, to investigate, arrest and convict those individuals who illegally export U.S technology to state sponsors of terrorism," Robert Luzzi, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Office of Export Enforcement's Miami Field Office, said in a release this week.

According to court filings, the investigation into Alexander began in May 2008, when one of his business partners alerted the authorities. Nabil Mansour called Special Agent Jonathan Barnes and told him that Mansour's business partner, Alexander, was doing business with Iran.

Barnes, of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security Office of Export Enforcement, knew Alexander and Mansour because he visited their Dalton business a year earlier. At the time, he had come by to make sure they understand the United States' various trade embargos.

After contacting Barnes, Mansour began faxing him copies of emails supposedly written by Alexander that discussed doing business in Iran.

Alexander and Mansour's Dalton company dissolved in 2012. In addition to his legal troubles, Alexander became entangled in a civil lawsuit.

"I was a man owning millions of dollars before this stuff," he said during a detention hearing in October 2011. "Now I'm 360 degrees underground in debts. I need to get back on my feet."

Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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