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The Globe and Mail

American accused in terror plot 'loved money'

Manssor Arbabsiar is shown in this courtroom sketch during an appearance in a Manhattan courtroom in New York on Oct. 11, 2011.

Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

During his years spent scuffling through the lower rungs of American life, alleged conspirator Mansoor Arbabsiar did little to make anyone who knew him believe he was capable of such high-stakes plotting.

Known as "Scarface" from wounds suffered in a savage knife attack 30 years ago, Mr. Arbabsiar went through a number of failed business ventures in Texas, married several times, and had a few petty brushes with the law.

A woman and someone with the same name as Mr. Arbabsiar, from Round Rock, Tex., where he lived, are listed with a Babies 'R' Us gift registry for an "event" expected Oct. 22.

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A former business partner talked more of Mr. Arbabsiar's tendency to lose his car keys than of anything dark in his character.

"If he got involved [in the alleged conspiracy to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States] it was probably because of money," said David Tomscha, who once owned a used car lot with Mr. Arbabsiar in Corpus Christi. "He [wouldn't have been]the brains of the operation."

Mr. Tomscha told reporters that his ex-partner was generally disorganized, often misplacing paperwork and car keys.

Tom Hosseini, who roomed with Mr. Arbabsiar at Texas A&I University in the early 1980s and remained friends with the 56-year-old American-Iranian, said that the accused's first wife claimed she divorced him because he was so scatter-brained.

"She'd joke that she worked only to make money to pay to have keys made for the cars."

Like Mr. Tomscha, Mr. Hosseini said he believed that Mr. Arbabsiar, if guilty, was likely motivated by money.

"He didn't do this for jihad, he didn't do this for Iran, he did it for money. He was not religious. He loved money," said Mr. Hosseini, in an interview with a Corpus Christi newspaper.

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He said Mr. Arbabsiar moved to Iran in the spring of 2010, but often returned to South Texas. "He told me I'm crazy to stay in the U.S., that he was making good money in Iran. He didn't tell me what he was doing."

His failed businesses included a kabob shop, a Stop and Buy store, and the used car lot with Mr. Tomscha.

A lawyer who represented Mr. Arbabsiar in a business dispute could recall nothing remarkable about his client, now in headlines around the world. "Nothing really jumped out at me," said Corpus Christi lawyer Fred Jimenez.

However, in Round Rock, a suburb of Austin, where Mr. Arbabsiar moved after living in Corpus Christi for many years, neighbours spoke of an unfriendly individual, often talking loudly in the street after dark on his cellphone in words they did not understand.

"My wife and I always thought there was something weird about this guy. But you don't think it will get to this level," said Eric Cano, who lives next door to the residence listed for Mr. Arbabsiar.

"He wasn't friendly at all. He'd just walk and talk in this language I'd never heard of."

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Mr. Cano said Mr. Arbabsiar had moved in with a woman who lived in the house at the time. He said she was raising three boys, all of whom had graduated from high school.

Neighbour Chris Elquist said he didn't think much about the lack of contact with Mr. Arbabsiar and others in the house.

"I just figured they wanted their privacy."

A call to Mr. Arbabsiar's residence Tuesday night went unanswered.

With reports from Associated Press and others

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