February 19, 2010, - 5:41 pm

Doing the Work the FBI Won’t Do: ICE Agents Bust Hezbollah in Miami

By Debbie Schlussel

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.

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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?

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17 Responses

FBI should be wary of all Muslim youths coming into United States of America as they can be up to anything which is capable of undermining humanity… Europe and its government should appreciate the danger it portends for the entire world allowing Muslim radical groups to operate freely on European soil..

Concern citizen of the World

Stanley Martin on February 20, 2010 at 2:56 am

This is the problem with ICE. ICE uses trained Special Agents to arrest someone who has only crossed the border illegally instead of conducting major criminal investigations. Even when agents are conducting investigations they are often called away from them because a trooper has stopped a mexican without a license or something similar. ICE needs to seperate their functions and allow their detention and removal officers to deal with all of the non criminal aliens. Cutting off the money and goods that are funding and supplying these criminal and terror related organizations should be an ICE special agents priority.

Jerry on February 20, 2010 at 9:49 am

esa estoria no entra na cabesa . los mayores empresas in usa qi venden producto electronico al paraguy son judios e tonse agora los judios estan ajudado hizbolah .

in qe mundo estamos

luis bejamin nunis on February 20, 2010 at 10:35 am

I am extremely puzzled. These guys could do this same import-export stuff by setting up a shop in southern China where these electronics gizmos are manufactured. Why the extra costs and extra risks of setting up shop in the US? May be because on return trips their shipments also include drugs from South America. No other explanation makes sense.

Rex on February 20, 2010 at 3:17 pm

The reason they set up shop in Miami? Location, and weak dollar and economy mean Chinese-made products cheaper to buy here in the US than in China (go figure).

Shakib Arslan on February 20, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    I am sorry, you have flunked Econ 101. A U.S. Dollar that is weak relative to other currencies from other countries makes the imports from those countries more expensive in the United States. Conversely, a weak U.S. Dollar makes U.S. exports, such as they are, less expensive in countries with stronger currencies.

    sorrow01 on February 21, 2010 at 12:55 am

DS: Do you believe the FBI has always been “incompetent” or is this a fairly recent development?

KS: For the last couple of decades, at least. DS

KingSlav on February 20, 2010 at 6:22 pm

I want to know why now and will there be more of these.
Both Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have
up shop and created alliances both to make money and
to serve as a base for terrorist operations in this
hemisphere. They have been doing this for a long
time.

I_AM_ME on February 20, 2010 at 9:25 pm

I read somewhere last year that Ciudad del Este is a major hotbed for money heading to Hezbo and a major town for trafficking pirated/contraband/knockoff goods, etc.

Not Ovenready on February 21, 2010 at 3:07 am

BFD! So they did a real investigation for a change…there goes their “performance” rating when their stupidvisors see they didn’t get any fake Coach handbags, weenie-waggers, or some other innocuous BS which is the mainstay these days.

I applaud them for their efforts but the fact remains that the celebration is short-lived. ice still SUCKS and so do the nutless dweebs in charge.

IceNoMore on February 21, 2010 at 3:42 am

Shakib Arslan,
The Chinese currency and the US dollar is pegged by the Chinese to keep Chinese good flowing into the US. The weak dollar is a 2008/2009/2010 stuff but this investigation began in 2007. It would have been a lot easier for these guys to set-up the operation in Tripoli (Lebanon) or Guongzhou (Southern China) or Hong Kong. Why go through all the extra costs and extra risks of setting up shop in the USA? It has got to do with either to facilitate the inflow of drugs from South America and/or for the procurement of certain American weapons of the kind that is not available in other markets such as Barret M100 50 cal sniper rifle etc, high quality Bullet Proof Jackets etc. Just my thoughts.

Rex on February 21, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Deb, that phrase about a stuck clock being right twice a day…well I think that would apply to ICE and their cohorts. But that still doesn’t take away the notion ICE STILL HAS CRACKED ICE IN IT!

Bob Porrazzo on February 22, 2010 at 7:43 am

youre correct when you say that ice has had its hands tied
by janet napalatno. it seems her latest screwup was ducking a hearing she was supposed to testify at claiming she would be out of town. well she wasnt, and did in fact meet with some politican
during that period of time
shes been called on the carpet for some of the things shes done and i continue to complain to my representative whos on the homeland security committee. ive also read that ms 13 is shaking down illegal immigrants going so far as to take their shoes. i wish they had a paypal page for that id surely donate
ms 13 will probably become a better reason for illegals not to come north once the word gets aruond what there up to with illegal aliens

ed on February 22, 2010 at 10:15 am

Wow. Great bust. Those PS2’s could have made them dollars in profit per UNIT. Worse yet I bet they were US region encoded and could have allowed those Latinos to get away with paying twice as much to play US games and dvd’s. The terrorist have gone from putting bombs in shoes to putting bombs in underpants in only 6 years. Soon they may figure out mentos in coke. How about .gov spend some effort on not helping corporations rape and pillage 95% of the US population. Nice try ICE, you almost had me convinced you were spending my money wisely. Ha.

G.P. Burdell on February 22, 2010 at 5:38 pm

DS: I find the title of your article “Doing the work the FBI won’t do” interesting. If you read the press release, this operation was a joint terrorsim task force operation which was turned over to ICE due to the fact that export violations are ICE violations and they are better equipped to investigate such crimes. It is refreshing to see that ICE is getting back into export violations which will assist in protecting our country from terrorist activities. ICE has extremely competent agents, as does the FBI. I guess you haven’t heard of a terrorist who just pled guilty in New York by the name of Najibullah Zazi who was caught by the incompetent agents who work for the FBI. Had these incompetent agents not done their jobs, thousand of US citizens and foreign visitors would have surely lost their lives had he carried out his plan to explode TATP in a subway system in the city. Sleep well knowing that you have incompetent FBI agents here and overseas stopping terrorist activities before they are carried out. Joint Terrorism Task Force is a combination of FBI, ICE, DEA, local and state law enforcement partners and several other members of the alphabet soup and all work jointly for one purpose, prevent you, your family and loved ones from dying in a senseless suicide bombing or homegrown terrorist act.
God bless you.

Trivial Pursuit on February 24, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Did the Miami arrested get BOND BAIL etc??? Any news TALAVERA GONZALES NEIRA SAFADI ETYC??? ANY PROGRESS?

NOVERA on March 4, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Debbie you so stupid, Iran giving hezbo millions of dollars .

sam on June 11, 2010 at 12:19 am

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