February 19, 2010, - 5:41 pm
Hampered by Obama/Napolitano constraints on any meaningful immigration enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents did yeoman’s work and then some in busting Hezbollah operatives in Miami and South America. The operatives included Muslim Arabs and Latinos, who illegally exporting electronics, digital cameras, and Playstation 2 video games to a South American shopping center which launders money to Hezbollah.
ICE Makes Major Bust in Hezbollah’s Latin American Network
The shopping center, Galeria Page in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, and its owner, Muhammad Yusif Abdallah, were classified by the Treasure Department as SDGTs (Specially Designated Global Terrorists) in December 2006 because they aided Assad Ahmad Barakat, who has been on the U.S. terrorist blacklist since 2004 and whose South American terrorist network is a key finance arm of Hezbollah and involves other key Hezbo financiers, Sobhi Mahmoud Fayad, Farouk Abdul Omairi, and Ali Mohamad Kazan. The plot used here–pretending the merchandise was being shipped domestically–and using labeling applicable to that and not required Customs forms and declarations is a frequent Hezbollah technique. The convicted Farhat Brothers, based in the Detroit area, did the same with counterfeit perfumes they actually sent elsewhere to raise money for Hezbollah.
The investigation and arrests announced, this morning, are a refreshing return to the kind of work the U.S. Customs Service Office of Investigations (which was absorbed into ICE) did under Operation Greenquest, the successful terrorist money-laundering investigation team once run by Marcy Forman-Friedman. These terrorism investigations–since just after the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security–are normally the exclusive domain of Famous But Incompetent. But, this time, the competent guys at ICE were the lead investigators on the case. The indictment was unsealed earlier today.
ICE agents who work these kinds of cases are always frustrated that their agency is only thought of as “the immigration agency.” They do this kind of work, too, but usually get subverted by press-hungry FBI counter-terrorism agents. Kudos to the ICE agents who foiled these cretins, after a three year investigation. Four down, many more to go.
Samer Mehdi, 37, of Paraguay, Khaled T. Safadi, 56, of Miami, FL, Ulises Talavera, 46, of Miami, FL, Emilio Jacinto Gonzalez-Neira, 43, of Paraguay, Cedar Distributors, Inc. (Cedar), a Miami-based freight forwarding company owned by defendant Safadi, Transamerica Express of Miami, Inc. (Transamerica), a Miami-based freight forwarding company owned by defendant Talavera, and Jumbo Cargo, Inc. (Jumbo), a Miami-based freight forwarding company owned by defendant Gonzalez-Neira, were indicted on charges of conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 371, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), 50 U.S.C. §§ 1701-1706, and smuggling electronic goods from the United States to Paraguay, 18 U.S.C. § 554. . . .
On Feb. 18, 2010, ICE special agents along with agents and officers of CBP, FBI, DOC, OFAC and the Secret Service, executed arrest and search warrants as a result of this criminal investigation. Cedar owner Khaled Safadi and Transamerica owner Ulises Talavera were arrested in Doral, FL, Jumbo owner Emilio Gonzalez-Neira was arrested in Sunny Isles, FL, and Jomana Import Export owner Samer Mehdi is still at large. Safadi, Talavera and Gonzalez-Neira had their initial appearances today. Gonzalez-Neira was held in pre-trial detention, and Safadi and Talavera are being held in pre-trial detention pending their bond hearings . . . .
This investigation was initiated in 2007 by ICE, FBI, CBP and DOC, as part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). According to the allegations in the Indictment, from at least as early as March 2007 through and continuing to at least January 2008, freight-forwarders Talavera, through Transamerica, and Gonzalez-Neira, through Jumbo, exported Sony brand electronics, including Playstation 2 consoles and digital cameras, to defendant Samer Mehdi, owner of Jomana Import Export, an electronics business located within the Galeria Page, a shopping center in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. Safadi, through Cedar, was a distributor of the electronics to the freight-forwarders.
Since December 6, 2006, the shopping center known as Galeria Page in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, has been designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity by OFAC, pursuant to Executive Order 13224. Consequently, any transaction or dealing by a U.S. person with Galeria Page, including any transaction or dealing with an entity within Galeria Page, is prohibited. The OFAC designation banned trade with Galeria Page and all tenants located therein. At all relevant times to the Indictment, it is alleged that the defendants were aware that shipping to Galeria Page was prohibited.
To conceal the true destination of the prohibited shipments, the defendants created fake invoices that contained false addresses and also listed fictitious ultimate consignees on the required Shippers Export Declarations (SEDs), and other necessary export paperwork. Locations referenced in these false documents, as well as corresponding emails, ensured that the electronics would reach the prohibited intended destination. Additionally, wire transfer payments from Mehdi in Paraguay to the U.S.-based distributors were routed through various facilities to mask their true origin.
My question to the Hezbos: Why go to all the trouble to export and money launder through South America, when you can do it out of your own “Little South Lebanon” in Dearbornistan, and Abu Moskowitz and Abu Arena won’t harm a hair on your head?
Tags: Ali Mohamad Kazan, Assad Ahmad Barakat, Cedar, Cedar Distributors, Cedar Distributors Inc., Ciudad Del Este, Cuidad Del Este, Customs, digital cameras, electronics, Emilio Jacinto Gonzalez-Neira, Farhat Brothers, Farouk Abdul Omairi, Farouk Omairi, Florida, freight forwarding company, Galeria Page, Hezbollah, ICE, Immigation and Customs Enforcement, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Jomana Import Export, JTTF, Jumbo Cargo Inc., Khaled Safadi, Khaled T. Safadi, Latin America, Miami, money laundering, Muhammad Yusif Abdallah, OFAC, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Operation Greenquest, Paraguay, Playstation, Playstation 2, Samer Mehdi, SDGT, SEDs, Shippers Export Declarations, Sobhi Mahmoud Fayad, Sobhi Mamoud Fayad, South America, Specially Designated Global Terrorist, Transamerica Express of Miami Inc., Ulises Talavera, video games