FORT PIERCE — A Vero Beach businessman who once faced up to life in federal prison and a $1 million fine for importing opium in rugs from Iran and the Mideast has begun a far lesser two-year prison term.
And if Jafar Falasiri, 61, completes an in-prison drug rehabilitation program, he could qualify for release in a year, his defense attorney Greg Eisenmenger said Thursday.
"We are gratified," Eisenmenger said of the sentencing in federal court in Fort Pierce on Tuesday.
In addition to the prison term and fine, Falasiri agreed to forfeit to the United States more than 100 carpets and bags from Iran and $150,000.
Federal prosecutors said they don't publicly comment about cases.
Eisenmenger contended that the opium was for Falasiri's personal use, to feed a drug addiction that the attorney said grew out of Falasiri's grief over his son dying from cancer and family problems.
But some of the rugs came from Iran in violation of a federal trade embargo. That raised concerns about national security, court records show.
Falasiri is an Iranian native who became a naturalized United States citizen in 2001. He had a brother living in Iran.
Falasiri was arrested in Vero Beach during July 2011. The drugs, hidden in rugs, were delivered to his Falasiri Oriental Rugs, in the 2300 block of U.S. 1 in Vero Beach, after the shipment was flown into Orlando.
A confidential informant tipped investigators who found an estimated 6 pounds of suspected narcotics in 120 packages in the rugs.
In April Falasiri reached a plea deal that limited his jail term to five years. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import illegal materials in violation of the Iranian trade embargo.
"The judge recognized all the public things that Mr. Falasiri did," the defense attorney said. "He faced his addiction and cooperated with federal investigators."
Before his sentencing he was out of prison and underwent drug rehabilitation
For years, Falasiri was known for dealing in one-of-a-kind handmade rugs that on occasions were showcased at the Vero Beach Museum of Art. Many are in homes in the community.
He has lived in Brevard County since 1978 and operated the rug business in Vero Beach since 1986.