Probation, workhouse for U prof who falsified retirement balances to cheat ex-wife
A University of Minnesota professor has been sentenced to four years of probation and four months in the workhouse for falsifying the value of his retirement nest egg in an attempt to cheat his former wife out of her share.
The sentence Friday from Hennepin County District Judge Tanya Bransford allows that if the 57-year-old Massoud Amin successfully completes his probation, the three felony charges the jury convicted him on will be reduced to misdemeanors. Bransford also imposed a $30,000 fine.
Assistant County Attorney Joshua Larson asked the judge to impose a 3½-year prison sentence based on the jury finding that his crimes were committed over a lengthy time period, involved multiple incidences and the value of the attempted theft by swindle was more than $100,000.
“His conduct is a tapestry of lies and greed,” Larson said in court.
Amin spoke during sentencing of accompanying his parents to poor villages in his native Iran before moving to the United States in 1978.
He said it was his ambition to improve the lives of those villagers, and others, by improving electrical power, which led him to becoming an electrical engineer. He also wanted to make the next generation of leaders more ethical.
“I have been demoted back to where I started,” Amin said. “I am terrified of what might come next. Even before I was convicted, my reputation was severally damaged. I beg for mercy.”
Bransford then sentenced Amin, noting she could not impose a punishment that was many times more than what state guidelines recommend.
Amin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the director of the Technological Leadership Institute, has been with the university since March 2003. He is an expert in smart grids and infrastructure security. He has professional and consulting experience with McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, NASA, Rockwell International and various federal agencies, including the departments of Defense and Energy.
In September, a jury convicted Amin of one count of attempted theft by swindle, and two counts of aggravated forgery. Amin submitted to family court several documents indicating that his retirement account had $745,012 in it. His wife was sure that was wrong, and testimony indicated that he had tampered with the documents and his actual retirement fund balance was nearly $900,000.
His now former wife, in a statement read on her behalf in court, said that Amin that he manipulated her to the point that she began to doubt herself and her memory and she feared for her safety because he bought 14 guns after the criminal case against him had begun.
“The level of psychological abuse has negatively impacted my well-being,” she wrote in her statement.
In a legal complication for the professor growing out of the fraud case, Amin had weapons possession charges against him suspended in January after he agreed to pay $500 and sell 14 pistols he bought over a 17-day period in the summer of 2017.
If Amin avoids being charged with a weapons-related offense for one year, the seven gross-misdemeanor charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm will be dismissed, according to the agreement between Amin and the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office.
Amin made the purchases even though he was aware he had been charged in June 2017 with aggravated forgery.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482