Los Angeles Times | December 3, 2010
By Shaya Tayee Mohajer
LOS ANGELES – A purported Iranian government agent who pleaded guilty to trying to hire a hitman to kill a broadcaster critical of the Iranian regime is a fugitive from justice after missing a Los Angeles court date.
Mohammad Reza Sadeghnia, 43, was granted permission to travel to his native Iran earlier this fall to visit his ailing father and apparently never returned. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to appear at Tuesday’s hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court, deputy district attorney Ron Goudy said.
Sadeghnia’s name appears among the trove of U.S. government documents recently posted by the WikiLeaks website. A confidential Jan. 21 diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in London says Sadeghnia admitted being an Iranian agent and conducting surveillance on two anti-Iranian government broadcasters — London-based Voice of America commentator Reza Nourizadeh and Jamshid Sharmahd, who runs Los Angeles-based radio programming for opposition group Tondar.
Sadeghnia, who lived for years in Ann Arbor, Mich., was arrested in July 2009 by police at a hotel near the Los Angeles airport. Prosecutors say he tried to hire a hitman to kill Sharmahd for $32,000. The man rejected the offer, police said, and agreed to testify against Sadeghnia, who pleaded guilty.
Sadeghnia spent a year in jail before being placed on probation in July. He later was given permission to leave the country and go to Iran on the condition he return by Oct. 25. On Tuesday, Sadeghnia was supposed to give the court a progress report on his probation.