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Fatemeh Karimkhani (a.k.a. Angela Harkness, born in 1976, in Tehran, Iran) is a convicted scam artist. Her biggest scheme was the infamous Angela's Motorsports NASCAR team in 2003. Angela Harkness was sentenced to 40 months in prison on May 25, 2007.
Karimkhani was the youngest of at least seven daughters (and three sons) of an Iranian civil servant and military officer who fled to Germany in about 1979 after the Shah's government there collapsed. In about 1995, she moved to the United States. Soon after she found a job as a stripper in California. She married Rayford Tyler Jr. in a scam intended to gain her citizenship; this would be the first of at least three attempts (all unsuccessful) to become a U.S. citizen. In May 1996, the 21-year-old Karimkhani met a 40-year-old judge named Dion Harkness. Despite their constant bickering, they moved in together and later married, even though Karimkhani never divorced from her first husband. On three occasions, Karimkhani accused Harkness of domestic violence, and sought to have him arrested. Despite his proclamation of innocence, Harkness, who had no prior criminal record, lost his seat on the bench and the ability to practice law. Harkness accused her of self-abuse, abusive behavior toward him and addictions to drugs and pornography, but to no avail. She gave birth to a baby in November 2000. Four months later, Harkness left his wife after another fight, and a few days afterward was found dead in a Palm Desert, California hotel room of an apparent suicide.
|Notable car numbers||02|
|Notable drivers||Jay Sauter|
|Notable sponsors||Wired Flyer.com|
Karimkhani, now calling herself Angela Harkness without benefit of a legal name change, claimed to have served a variety of occupations. Among them included a kindergarten teacher, trophy girl, motocross champion, and a wealthy heiress, among many others. In the fall of 2001, at an Austin, Texas strip club where she worked as a stripper, she met Gary D. Jones, a vice-president of a Wells Fargo bank branch. The two became lovers, and Jones, who was married, later moved in with her. Authorities say the couple wrote fraudulent checks and obtained bank loans with bogus applications in their relatives' names.
Harkness suggested that they form a new minority-owned NASCAR team, which would attract multi-million dollar sponsorships. Purchasing cars from Robert Yates Racing, the two assembled a championship-caliber team in crew chief Harold Holly, general manager Clyde McLeod, and popular driver Mike McLaughlin. The team made its debut at the season-closing Ford 300 in the NASCAR Busch Series in 2002. Kevin Lepage and Jay Sauter piloted the machines. When they tested in 2003 with McLaughlin, they were fastest. But Jones and Harkness could not produce the $6,000,000 they needed to remain in business, and their checks began to bounce.
Harkness threatened their sponsor, Wired Flyer.com, (a now-defunct internet travel agency) to pay $350,000 or face legal action. RYR owner Robert Yates caught on and was able to get his equipment back; but not all investors were able to recoup their losses. Shortly thereafter, Jones and Harkness fled and the team dissolved after the season-opening race.
With all the quality driver positions filled, McLaughlin's racing career came to a halt. He became a development driver coach for Joe Gibbs Racing, and opened his own racing fabrication business. As of 2009, McLaughlin is also building bobsleds for the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project, supplier of sleds to the US Olympic team.
McLeod, Holly and other teams members continued in racing with other NASCAR teams.
NASCAR instituted the Drive for Diversity program to introduce opportunities for minorities and women to enter the sport. The program includes a screening process so that a fraud like that perpetrated by Harkness could be prevented.
Final days on the run
Jones was found operating a sports grill and was arrested for fraud and embezzlement from Wells Fargo Bank, perjury, money laundering and conspiracy. Harkness entered a plea agreement for fraud and agreed to testify against Jones, but fled the country prior to sentencing. After a long manhunt, she was finally arrested in 2005 in Dubai, her Iranian passport was confiscated, and she was ordered not to leave that country, pending her return to the U.S. She was arrested in April 2007 by United States Marshals upon arrival from the United Arab Emirates in New York City, and was tried in Central Texas. She was sentenced to three and a half years in federal prison.
- ESPN - Former Texas stripper sentenced to 40 months for embezzlement - Nascar
- Angela does NASCAR
- Former owner of Angela's Motorsports captured by authorities
- Announcement about McLaughlin running with AM in 2003
- Angela Harkness owner statistics at Racing Reference