Manssor Arbabsiar, the man the U.S. government has charged with taking part in a plot with Iranian government officials to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, lived for more than two decades in Corpus Christi, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico, before moving to a suburb near Austin, the Texas capital, a few years ago.
In Austin, few people knew him, while in Corpus Christi, Arbabsiar had several close friends and business associates.
When the news media reported that terror plot suspect Manssor Arbabsiar had once lived in Corpus Christi, The secretary of the South Texas Islamic Society Samir Jifi-Bahlool, winced. “He is somebody I never met," he said. "He does not represent me or my faith or my community.”
Of area residents who are religious, the overwhelming majority are Christian.
Muslims are few in number, but they have an active, growing community.
But Jifi-Bahlool says most Iranians living here seem to be secular and he says Arbabsiar, from what has been reported, was certainly not religious. “He used to go to the strip joints and drink regularly and he does not sound like someone who was a devout Muslim or religious,” he stated.
Most people in this tourist destination had never heard of Manssor Arbabsiar before his arrest last week.
Mostly known in auto sales
He was mainly known by people who dealt with him at this used automobile sales lot near downtown.
One of his former business partners, David Tomscha, describes Arbabsiar as a simpleton who failed at even menial tasks. “He would always lose keys; he was always disorganized with the numbers, he might try to sell you a car and say it was a 1989 [model and year] and it might be an '85...I don't know if it was that he was trying to cheat you or that he just could not remember,” said Tomscha.
In spite of his irresponsible nature, Tomscha says Arbabsiar was well liked by most people who knew him here. “He was a nice, likable guy, friendly and easy to get along with,” he said.
But Tomscha says the lure of money may have taken hold of Arbabsiar. “I cannot believe he could set anything up. It could be someone just said 'you go do this and we will give you some money,' but I am sure he is was not the mastermind,” he noted.
Most of the other people who knew Arbabsiar agree that the man they knew would not have been capable of carrying out any kind of plot.