The couple, members of the Baha’i faith who sought asylum in the U.S. were arrested and sent to prison for submitting false information to obtain the government contracts.

A former University of Florida nuclear engineering professor found guilty of fraudulently obtaining government contracts was sentenced Tuesday to six months in prison followed by home confinement and probation.

Samim Anghaie must report for prison on Jan. 9 and will remain free until then. His wife, Sousan Anghaie, was sentenced to six months of home confinement for her role in the enterprise.

They must pay $100,000 each in fines, forfeit $390,252 to the federal government and pay other costs associated with the case.

They were convicted in February of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and more than two dozen counts of wire fraud for submitting false information to obtain contracts from NASA and the U.S. Air Force. They faced up to 20 years in prison for each of the wire-fraud charges.

However, Senior U.S. District Judge Stephan Mickle said the facts of the case must be more intricate than “garden variety” to warrant the harsher sentences.

Lloyd Vipperman Jr. and Stephen Bernstein, attorneys for the Anghaies, said they believe the sentences were reasonable.

“We’re very pleased. I think the judge put his heart and soul in considering this one and did an excellent job,” Bernstein said.

U.S. Attorney Greg McMahon would not comment after the sentencing. However, during the proceedings he was critical of Mickle’s decision to sustain objections from the defense attorneys regarding financial losses to the government. Those decisions reduced the potential sentences under sentencing guidelines.

“I’m more than surprised at the court’s ruling,” McMahon said of Mickle’s decision to sustain objections. “I disagree vehemently. There was no evidence this was anything but an attempt to funnel money to (themselves).“

The Anghaies were charged with submitting false information, including research taken from UF students without their knowledge, to obtain the government contracts.

They obtained $3.4 million in contracts since 1999 and used money from the contracts to buy vehicles and homes, according to prosecutors.

The FBI raided Samim Anghaie’s UF office and seized the family’s property in February 2009. The couple was arrested that October.

The couple are members of the Baha’i faith who sought asylum in the U.S. on the basis of Iran’s persecution of members of the religion, according to immigration documents.
Samim Anghaie started at UF in 1980 and was director of its Innovative Nuclear Space Power and Propulsion Institute, before losing the position over the fraud case.

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