ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The man allegedly at the center of the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador is Manssor Arbabsiar. He's a naturalized American citizen who has lived in Texas for the last 30 years; first in the Dallas area, then Corpus Christi, and finally outside Austin. NPR's Wade Goodwyn has this profile.
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Fifty-six-year-old Manssor Arbabsiar was a small business owner for much of his life. Friends say he liked to be called Jack. He enjoyed a good time and didn't seem religious or political at all. He had some minor brushes with the law. He was arrested for not having a valid drivers license, a charge which was reduced. A check fraud charge was dropped. He was married twice with children. Business associates described Arbabsiar's organizational skills as marginal.
David Tomscha, who owned a car dealership with Arbabsiar, said his partner often couldn't find the car titles. Tomscha eventually bought Arbabsiar out when he couldn't keep up his payments. Tomscha believes that if Arbabsiar is guilty of the charges that he did it for the money, not for the greater glory of Iran. At his estranged wife's house outside Austin, neighbors described Arbabsiar as man who could be kind of annoying. He smoked a lot while talking in a loud voice outside his house his cell phone. That's what Bree Tiumalu told the local TV station KXAN.
BREE TIUMALU: He always was in the front yard, talking on the phone, walking, pacing the front yard every day.
GOODWYN: If Arbabsiar didn't want his family to overhear his cell phone conversations, his wife told reporters she had no idea what was going on. A stressed out Martha Guerrero said her husband no longer lived with them. He visited.
MARTHA GUERRERO: We don't have a relationship. We don't have anything to do with each other. This is going to jeopardize our jobs, our lives. We don't want that. We just - my family and I just want to be in peace and move on like we were. We have absolutely nothing to do with this.
GOODWYN: Federal officials allege Manssor Arbabsiar was recruited through a cousin in Iran who was an official in the Quds Force, part of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Attorney General Eric Holder accused high-ranking Iranian officials of responsibility for the plot. Although Arbabsiar visited Iran every year or so, nearly everyone who knows him expressed surprise that he would be allegedly involved in an assassination plot, doubting among other things his religious zeal, his brains and his energy to carry something like this off. That includes his estranged wife.
GUERRERO: I may not be living with him - we've separated - but I cannot for the life of mine think that he would be capable of doing that. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm sure of that.
GOODWYN: The used car salesman allegedly code named the plot Chevrolet. U.S. officials say he signaled his contact it was time to act by saying: The Chevrolet is ready. It's ready, uh, to be done. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.