Mr. Arbabsiar, 58, was born in Kermanshah and served in the army there. He came to the United States to study mechanical engineering in the late 1970’s on a student visa to what was then Texas A&I University (Kingsville, TX) between 1979 and 1983 but flunked out and he eventually graduated from Southern College in Baton Rouge, La.
By 1987, Arbabsiar had divorced his first wife, Esperanza Walczak, whom he had met at Texas A&I. Public records show that in the course of the divorce proceedings, she filed a protective order against him. Tom Hosseini, a store owner in Corpus Christi who has known Arbabsiar since the late 1970’s said that Arbabsiar has properties in Iran worth about $2 million that provided him with a steady income. He also has a brother and sister in Iran. Arbabsiar’s nickname was “Lazy Jack” because of his taste for Jack Daniel’s whiskey! He also smoked marijuana.
In 1983, a group of men apparently angry at Mr. Arbabsiar for flirting with their girlfriends attacked and stabbed him repeatedly that nearly killed him in a dark street in Houston. That left a scar on his face and scars on his chest and back. Tom Hosseini who was with Arbabsiar that night said that Arbabsiar was too slow to escape his assailants! Friends and neighbors in Texas said that he could be gruff and intimidating, and that he often stood outside his house at night smoking and talking on his cellphone in a language they did not understand.
In 1991, Arbabsiar married Marta Guerrero, and they have a college-age son. Arbabsiar failed at a succession of ventures from used cars to kebabs. Arbabsiar opened his first business, B&M Autosales, in Corpus Christi in 1988. He opened another car lot in 1992 and then closed it when he incorporated Johnny’s Loan Co. in 1996. He started another financial venture called Tat Finance Co., and in April 2000, he tried the restaurant business when he founded Gyros and Kabob. The restaurant closed in 2003. In 2010 after he was separated from Marta, their home in Corpus Christi went into foreclosure and was auctioned off.
He became a US citizen/passport holder in 2010 and traveled to Iran 4 times that year. He later talked about his cousin who was a high ranking member of Sepah’s Qods Force (Brigadier General Mohammad Shahlaei). It is believed that after the crackdown by the Saudi forces in Bahrain in March of 2011, and to avenge the victims, the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir was hatched. He was assigned Sepah Colonel Ali Gholam Shakuri as his contact and handler.
The plan, according to government officials involved Mr. Arbabsiar’s paying a member of the Los Zetas drug cartel $1.5 million to plant a bomb at a Washington restaurant (Café Milano in Georgetown) while the Saudi ambassador dined. The person turned out to be a government informant whom Arbabsiar met in Mexico City on May 24, 2011.
Shakuri wired approximately $100,000 (2 payments of $49,000 on Aug. 1st and 9th, 2011) to a bank account in the U.S. as a down payment which went to an FBI undercover account. Arbabsiar was arrested on Sept. 29, 2011, at John F. Kennedy International Airport after he flew from Iran to Mexico City, but was refused entry and sent to NY. Arbabsiar had offered himself as collateral to the Mexican “conspirators” so that after the successful hit on the Saudi ambassador the balance of the $1.5 million “contract” is paid in Mexico. After his arrest, he initially cooperated with the authorities who were trying to lure the co-conspirators to outside Iran so that they could be apprehended. But he then stopped cooperating.
Mr. Arbabsiar, addressing the judge before he was sentenced, said: “Whatever I did wrong, I take responsibility for it. I can’t change what I did. I have a good heart. I never hurt anyone.” He added, “My mind sometimes is not in a good place.”
The judge gave him the maximum sentence of 25 years partly because of his limited cooperation with the government.