FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A federal fraud investigation led to a Jordanian-born man being charged with murder in district court in the shooting death of an Iranian student and women's rights activist two years ago, prosecutors said. Authorities are also now taking a new look at an unsolved killing to see if the cases are related.
Ali Irsan, 57, was indicted by a grand jury in Houston on Thursday in the January 2012 killing of Gelareh Bagherzadeh, who also was an outspoken critic of the government in Tehran. The 30-year-old was shot to death as she talked with a friend on her cellphone. Her body was discovered slumped behind the wheel of her car after it crashed into the upscale Houston townhome complex where she lived with her parents.
An FBI-led police team arrested Irsan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, on Thursday along with his wife, Shmou Ali Alrawabdeh, 37, also a Jordanian national, and daughter, Nadia Irsan, 30, a U.S. citizen, on charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., theft of public money and benefits fraud, prosecutors said.
The federal criminal complaint alleges Irsan and his wife falsified documents to receive Social Security disability benefits with help from his daughter. All three are being held in Houston's federal detention center, according to Harris County District Attorney's Office spokesman Jeff McShan.
Online jail records do not list any attorneys for the three, who live in Conroe. Investigators are now examining whether there is a link between Bagherzadeh's death and the killing of her boyfriend's twin brother — and Irsan's son-in-law — in November 2012, McShan said.
One of Irsan's daughters befriended Bagherzadeh while both were studying molecular genetics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the Houston Chronicle reported. Nesreen Irsan introduced Bagherzadeh, who had recently moved to the U.S. from Iran, to her husband's identical twin brother, Cory Beavers. Bagherzadeh and Cory Beavers began dating.
Bagherzadeh's killing drew renewed attention 10 months after she died, when Nesreen Irsan's husband, Coty Beavers, was discovered dead from multiple gunshot wounds in the couple's suburban Harris County apartment.
No one was charged, and at the time, the Harris County Sheriff's office could not establish a connection between the two killings. Irsan killed his son-in-law Amjad H. Alidam, who was married to Nasemah Rachelle Irsan, in 1999 using a 12-gauge shotgun and claimed self-defense, the Chronicle reported. He was not charged, Montgomery County District Attorney's Office records show.