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Orange County Waiter Accused by FBI of Being Iranian Government Spy

A tale of intrigue and Persian food

Outside South Coast Plaza
South Coast Plaza
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

An Orange County waiter has been accused by the FBI of being a covert operative for the government of Iran. The electric new report comes by way of the LA Times, who say that Majid Ghorbani of the upscale restaurant Darya at South Coast Village Plaza had for some time been conspiring with another man to gain various intelligence throughout Southern California and beyond.

According to the Times, Ghorbani and another man based in Long Beach spent more than a year executing surveillance against Israeli and Jewish facilities, as well as an Iranian exile group known as Mujahedin Khalq. FBI operatives reportedly recorded the men at various meetings over many months, and even searched their luggage on a return trip from Iran, finding target lists and dossiers on various people and places.

The 59-year-old Ghorbani had been an employee at Darya for the restaurant’s entire 20-year history, working as a beloved server for the large Persian community in the area. Darya also operates a location in Santa Monica. Ghorbani was reportedly working service on the floor in Santa Ana when the feds busted in and arrested him on the spot back in August.

Per the Times, Darya’s restaurant ownership said they had no prior knowledge of any of Ghorbani’s activities, including meetings with his partner that took place at the restaurant itself. The report also says that the accusations have led to growing tensions within the Iranian expat community at large, a group that is already on edge because of heightened rhetoric under the current Trump administration towards Tehran.