Babak Broumand stood in a courtroom Monday in shackles and a white jumpsuit as a federal judge balanced his ledger.
There was the work Broumand did as an FBI agent, thwarting terrorist plots and threats from hostile nations. Some missions were so secret they couldn’t even be discussed in court.
And then there were the bribes he took from an organized crime figure.
“Where are you going?” asked U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner before he sentenced Broumand to six years in prison — four years less than prosecutors had asked for.
Broumand, 56, worked in the FBI’s San Francisco field office for two decades before retiring in 2019 amid a cloud of suspicion when evidence emerged that he had pocketed cash and taken generous benefits from Edgar Sargsyan, a prolific con artist.
After a two-week trial, in October a jury found Broumand guilty of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering, while acquitting him on two charges of bribery and money laundering.
The panel sided with the government’s argument that Sargsyan bribed Broumand and other valuables — a motorcycle, escorts and lodgings in luxury hotels — in exchange for Broumand’s access to secret law enforcement databases to track investigations into Sargsyan and his associates.
Sargsyan, who posed as a lawyer while making millions from identity theft, drug trafficking and other rackets, has pleaded guilty to bank fraud, lying to federal authorities and bribing Broumand and another federal agent, Felix Cisneros.
Cisneros was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Sargsyan has yet to be sentenced.
In testimony at his own trial, Broumand claimed that Sargsyan was a source of information for the FBI and denied that their relationship was inappropriate.
Sargsyan said his boss — Levon Termendzhyan, a petroleum magnate who has since been convicted of defrauding the federal government — supplied oil to the Turkish government and was involved in oil sales with the Islamic State terror organization, Broumand testified.
Broumand denied taking money from Sargsyan, saying he accepted against his better judgment in a red Ducati motorcycle, without giving anything in return.
At Monday’s sentencing hearing, Assistant U.S. Atty. Michael Morse pointed to Broumand’s admission that as a counterintelligence agent he was “trained in the art of deceit”.
During his testimony, Broumand made up “alternative stories that sounded like they came out of a spy novel,” Morse said. He asked the judge to consider what he characterized as Broumand’s perjury, asking for ten years in prison for the former agent.
Before Broumand addressed the judge, Klausner reminded him of his “ongoing and lifelong responsibility” not to disclose classified information.
Standing with his wrists and ankles chained together, Broumand said that after fleeing Iran as a child, he “fell in love with this country and its freedom, which I have adopted. And it adopted me.”
Of his work for the FBI, Broumand said, “I was able to save countless lives, Your Honor, and I was actually able to change the course of history in favor of the United States.”
He apologized for accepting what he described as “gifts”, but insisted that he considered Sargsyan a friend and was unaware that he was involved in criminal activity.
Broumand’s lawyer, Steven Gruel, asked for a prison sentence of up to 18 months and produced evidence of the awards the FBI agent received during his career.
Not only did they contain awards from the FBI, but also a plaque inscribed, “In appreciation of all your support, from your CIA colleagues in San Francisco,” and another that read, “To Babak Broumand, from your friends at MI5,” the United Kingdom’s internal security service.
Gruel also filed with the court a letter written by Frank Montoya Jr., a retired FBI official who oversaw Broumand at the agency’s San Francisco office from 2009 to 2011.
Broumand “worked for me in difficult and dangerous places around the world, often with little to protect him except his own sanity,” Montoya wrote.
“The kind of work Babak did, often in the shadows of a gray and treacherous world, often has a debilitating impact on those who do it,” he continued. “Knowing where to draw the line and when to return to reality can become an extremely difficult task when your entire life depends on your ability to live a lie.”
Before handing down the six-year sentence, Klausner said Montoya’s letter was “extremely important in this case.”
He didn’t point to the praise or the psychological insights, but to another line: “There must be consequences for breaking the law, especially among those in positions of trust.”