Persecuted by the government in her Iranian homeland, Khadijeh Muaveny walked to Kurdistan in May 1997, got smuggled into Turkey, flew from Europe to Mexico City, hired alien smugglers to transport her into California and asked for asylum after her 25-day ordeal.
In the United States, Muaveny obtained permanent residency status, claimed a serious back injury and, even though she quietly operated a daycare center and often keep more than $350,000 in as many as 15 bank accounts using numerous names in multiple states, demanded and took nearly $98,000 in government benefits including welfare and Supplemental Security Income payments.
But Muaveny--who also used the names Fahimeh Muaveny (apparently the real identity) and Khadijeh Moaveni--had employed a fake story about her torturous trip to the U.S. when, in fact, she used a fake name to fly into this country from England after living comfortably in Sweden.
Questioned by federal officials, Muaveny lied to agents about the daycare operation, claiming that she merely took care of her grandchildren, according to court records.
But she had obtained a state daycare license and she had no grand kids.
Following her arrest, she claimed poverty in hopes of avoiding restitution, but U.S. Department of Justice officials--who tracked her money flow, call her financially "sophisticated," and note that she converted cash into gold and silver bars--depict her as a person who demonstrates "no hesitation whatsoever" to "boldly lie," according to court records.
Federal prosecutors said they were okay with Muaveny receiving no prison time if she paid full restitution as well as a $30,000 fine and faced exile.
But Muaveny's criminal defense lawyer argued that his client has a "caring character" and is truly a democracy activist determined to bring about regime change in Iran.
Kicking this defendant out of the country is "harsh" because she now has five children living here, the lawyer claimed.
Muaveny--who eventually signed a guilty plea and insisted she can't afford to re-pay the government benefits she illegally took--even got former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who headed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, to write a supportive letter to a California judge.
"Fahimeh is known to me through our mutual support of an international organization promoting a secular, democratic, non-nuclear Iran," wrote Ridge, who also claims he believes she has good character and admits her mistakes.
One of Muaveny's daughters, a graduate of Cal State Long Beach, wrote the judge to say, "She rocks as a mom in so many amazing ways."
Another daughter called her mom "very courageous."
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This week inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, U.S. District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton determined that Muaveny isn't being truthful about her finances once again, and ordered her to "immediately" pay nearly $128,000 to the government for cheated benefits and fines.
In lieu of potential prison time, Staton also told this defendant that she must permanently self-deport eight days from now.