Falls Church businessman Pawan Sanai was sentenced to two years of probation Friday, ending a three-year massive FBI and Homeland Security investigation into some technically-illegal bank transactions that Sanai carried out in June 2004.
Sanai, who owns Gas King Auto Repair at 8134 Lee Highway in Falls Church and used-car dealership Dashmesh Automobiles T/A Auto King, pled guilty to two incidents of "structuring," which involved multiple cash deposits to a bank on a single day of just under $10,000 each, avoiding the automatic banks reports to the IRS of all such deposits in excess of $10,000.
According to statements made in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria Friday, Sanai, an Indian immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1994, had been the subject of a
major investigation by the FBI and the Homeland Security office because of suspicions that his action was part of a money laundering operation.
Prosecuting attorneys conceded that the exhaustive investigation of Sanai, who has no prior record other than three traffic tickets, turned up nothing. Sanai was sentenced to two years of supervised probation with the possibility of early release. In addition to his probation, Sanai must hand over the total of the $27,000 worth of deposits to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Sanai’s structuring offense occurred when he switched banks from BB&T to United. In addition to owning the gas station, Sanai owns a used car business, which is incorporated separately. It was Sanai’s fund transfers from the two business entities that appeared to federal investigators to be a possible money laundering operation.
"Our investigations into Mr. Sanai’s funds for additional illegal activity turned up
nothing," said Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessicka Wszlack in her
statement for the prosecution on Friday.
"This is not a man who needs rehabilitation." said defense attorney Steven Cundra in his statement to the judge. "This is a man who has served his community."
Cundra also pointed out, "The $27,000 was all honestly earned, and he has lost it, he has paid the price for his misjudgment."
Judge Bruce Lee told Sanai during his sentencing, "We see that you're not involved with drugs or terrorism or anything awful like that, as was first thought."
He then waived the mandatory drug testing usually included along with probation, saying, "I see no evidence that would be necessary."
When asked by the News-Press after the sentencing if he thought Sanai’s race and immigrant status had anything to do with him being investigated so vigorously by the FBI and Homeland Security office, Cundra responded, "The darker shade of his skin probably did not help matters any."
(This week's print edition of the News-Press and an earlier on-line report mistakenly identified the wrong gas station as owned by Mr. Sanai. We apologize for the error. This article is now correct.)