November 17, 2008, - 11:40 am

Detroit Mainstream Media “Shield” Readers From Arabic/Muslim Names of Cigarette Tax Defrauders: Doing the Work Some Americans–ICE–Won’t Do

By Debbie Schlussel
**** SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATES – Retired ICE Agent is Wrong, Other Feds Confirm ****
Last week ATF agents and Michigan State Police busted 18 Arabs–about half of them Muslims and the other half mostly Chaldeans (Iraqi Christians)–for defrauding the State of Michigan of cigarette taxes, smuggling them from states with a much lower tax rate than Michigan and selling them here.
But, per usual, if you read about these arrests in any of the mainstream media sources in Michigan (including the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit Newsistan, you didn’t read any of their names and didn’t know that they were all Arabs–all of Middle Eastern heritage, as is usually the case in cigarette smuggling cases. This is significant because in most of the cases–as in this one–the criminals involved are Hezbollah supporters who are usually sending the money to finance terrorist operations against Christians, Jews, Israelis, and American soldiers (Hezbollah trains and builds IEDs for anti-U.S. terrorists in Iraq).


While the Chaldeans arrested and charged in several federal criminal complaints should face justice and were working in concert with Muslims (including a Yemeni Muslim), it is the Muslims that are noteworthy. As noted, they are mostly well-known Hezbollah supporters of South Lebanese heritage. Here is the press release, including the list from the Michigan State Police of those who were arrested and charged:

Investigators of MSP’s Tobacco Tax Unit worked alongside ATF agents in this two-year federal investigation. More than 150 law enforcement officers from ATF, MSP, and the Dearborn and Detroit Police Departments participated in the arrests and with the service of 25 federal search warrants for documents at private residences, gas stations and convenience stores throughout southeast Michigan. Items seized from various locations searched today include: documents, firearms, suspected contraband cigarettes and more than $115,000 in U.S. currency.
“At a time when Michigan’s economy is struggling, these defendants chose to break the law for their own personal gain by not paying the required State excise taxes on over 100,000 cartons of cigarettes. They sold the contraband cigarettes out of their businesses, pocketing over two million dollars in revenue that was due to the State of Michigan,” stated [ATF Special Agent in Charge Thomas E.] Brandon.
Those arrested for their role in the contraband cigarette trafficking scheme are: Abdo AL-HANUMA, 46; Jim ATTY, 56; Salim Georges ATTY, 72; Ali BAZZI, 36; Farid BAZZI, 32; Kassem Ali BAZZI, 62; Mohammed BAZZI, 33; Nasser BAZZI, 37; Sima Dehashti FALLAHI, 54; Khalil Ibrahim GARMO, 59; Abdul HEZAM, 40; Sam Gerges JINA, 47; Ali Salah KAHWAJI, 30; Khaled Abdo MOZEP, 24; Mukhlis MURAD, 50; Raghid MURAD, 36; Najib YATOOMA, 56; and Marawan EL-TOHAMY, 27. All defendants were brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Virginia M. Morgan, Eastern District of Michigan this afternoon for initial appearances on criminal complaints.
The joint investigation reveals that these individuals conspired to defraud Michigan the proceeds of cigarette taxes. Michigan requires every pack of cigarettes to carry a stamp showing that taxes have been paid. The state’s tax on cigarettes is $2 per pack, making it one of the highest state tax rates in the country. During the two-year criminal investigation, these defendants allegedly purchased approximately 104,310 cartons of contraband cigarettes, representing a tax loss to Michigan of $2,086,200.

Several of them are from the Bazzi family, one of a few major families that make up the nucleus of Hezbollah in South Lebanon and its supporters and financiers here in Southeast Michigan. Several Bazzis have been charged and convicted with finance-related crimes involving money-laundering. And one name in ATF Special Agent George F. Linen’s Affidavit attached to USA v. Kassem Bazzi states:

A brown Jeep, MI plate BBD6931, (registered to a Reda Mohamed BERRO)was loaded with contraband.

As I’ve previously written, the Berro family is not only well known for participating in Hezbollah, but a Berro family member–Ibrahim Hussein Berro, cousin to the Detroit Berros–was the man who blew up the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on behalf of Hezbollah and Iran in the mid-’90s, murdering almost 100 innocent people. His identity was confirmed when Detroit Berro family members were required to give DNA to match with his remains.
Don’t be surprised if the Bazzis and this particular Berro–as well as other co-conspirators in this case–were sending their profits from the cigarette smuggling to Hezbollah back in Lebanon. That’s what’s happened in most previous cigarette smuggling cases, involving Shi’ite Muslims from Lebanon, such as these defendants are.
Congratulations to ATF agents Linen, John W. Franklin, Troy A. Dannenfelser, Michigan State Police Det. Lt. Marty Bugbee (who’s overseen a lot of these cases and was censored by the Detroit Free Press after noting the scams were related to Hezbollah), and the other ATF agents and Michigan State Police detectives who diligently investigated this case.
Cases like this used to be the domain of the U.S. Customs Service Office of Investigations, which became ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Customs did great work catching and stopping Hezbollah cigarette smugglers.
But now that ICE has become a bloated, ineffective agency with no mission and dominated by political correctness toward extremist Muslims (especially with Special Agent in Charge Brian Moskowitz a/k/a “Abu Moskowitz” running the show in Michigan and Ohio), ATF, DEA, and local and state police pick up the slack as much as they can minus the appropriate budgets.
Florida Private Investigator, Bill Warner, who does great work on the terrorism front also wrote about this.
Read the interesting Affidavits in support of complaints in these separate but related cases:
* USA v. Kassem Bazzi
* USA v. Abdo Al-Hanuma
* USA v. Sima Dehashti Fallahi
**** UPDATE, 11/18/08: Yesterday, I posted herein an e-mail message from a retired ICE agent criticizing me for criticizing ICE for no longer being involved in cigarette smuggling cases and not doing the work necessary to stop it. The agent claimed ICE and Customs never had a mandate or interest in these kinds of cases. I was sure he was wrong, since U.S. Customs foiled many Hezbollah cigarette smugglers and ICE has an interest in any money laundering and smuggling that has an overseas component. Several experienced former Customs and current ICE agents confirmed what I’ve written, so I’ve removed the incorrect correction by the retired ICE agent, who was wrong.
Again, as I’ve noted, in the past U.S. Customs was involved in investigating cigarette smugglers, because they smuggled the money overseas (to Hezbollah, etc.). This case is no different.
**** UPDATE #2: Like many of the e-mails I’ve received from ICE agents, this retired high-ranking ICE and Customs agent notes I’m correct:

yes, you are correct: Customs always had an interest in cigarette ‘smuggling’ cases, even those that involved domestic purchases, because of terrorist financing concerns. Customs in particular looked at the terrorist financing/money laundering implications of the proceeds of illicit cigarette trafficking, being transferred out of the US to folks supporting international terrorist groups. ICE in the past was looking at trade-based money laundering related to both terrorist- and drug-related activities; it is unclear what the current status of those efforts is. This is similar to ICE/Customs’ interests in the past regarding illicit domestic trade in baby formula, often stolen from retail outlets and re-sold by the traffickers, again because of terrorist funding implications.
Again, you are right: Customs looked at such illicit trafficking problems, involving not only cigarettes and baby formula but also counterfeit intellectual property items, with a view to the terrorist funding implications, not merely the illicit trafficking per se.

14 Responses

Does this surprise you that this is going on. Prepare for Obama to grant amnesty to the 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants in America. When that happens this will be all over the country and then some .

Johnny V on November 17, 2008 at 3:28 pm

I was just curious.
I know the middle initial of ATF stands for “Tobacco”, but if this is simply a case of profiting by buying cigarettes cheap and selling them lower than the going rate by avoiding the high Michigan tax on cigarettes, why is a federal law enforcement agency like the ATF involved? What Federal laws are being violated unless the funds raised by this venture are being used in violation of Federal law (like supporting terrorists)?
Even if there were some rational for not printing the names (innocent until proven guilty, etc.), I can find no rational for not printing the motive behind the scheme. The two articles linked to seem to imply the only issue is that some people are profiting at the expense of the State of Michigan.
I thought the whole reason newspapers existed was to inform the public. How do they do that by withholding vital information?

I_am_me on November 17, 2008 at 4:18 pm

Yeah this scam goes on in San Diego County. Cigarettes are brought in from Mexico without a stamp for like a $1.25 a pack. Then they actually put a counterfeit California stamp and sell it for like $5.00 a pack at liqour stores. A few have been caught. I have been approached by hustlers on the street for cigarettes for $2.00 less a pack and I would ask how they could sell it for so low and they would tell me their scandal. I am glad I don’t smoke.

californiascreaming on November 17, 2008 at 4:45 pm

Last month I was in Montreal and a local newspaper ran a story about a garage that had been busted for shipping stolen cars to the Middle East.
The article is vague on who is implicated in the bust, but it does mention Lebanon and Africa.
(French only)

Jeremiah on November 17, 2008 at 6:02 pm

Question: is this Bill Warner, PI from Florida mentioned above, the same Bill Warner who authors the website

commonsense on November 17, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Wanna wipe out this kind of crime in a millisecond? CUT THE STINKIN’ CIGARETTE TAX and these guys are outta business.
I don’t know who’s greed-thuggery is worse; the HEZBOS or the stae of Mich’s.

P. Aaron on November 17, 2008 at 9:42 pm

The U.S. Customs Office of Investigation routinely investigated these types of federal violations because of the movement of the proceeds of the crime outside of the United States. ICE is a bag and tag agency now. $125,000 not so “special agents” spent their time rounding up illegal Hispanic meat packers the first day of the week and processing them the rest of the week. International Money Laundering investigations now consist of moron ASAC’s telling agents to seize Pilgrims Pride bank before they go out of business. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is no longer amazed but simply amused at the agency named after frozen water. Pahleeeeze! Money Laundering Investigations went out with Commissioner Bonner.

ParaLyzer on November 18, 2008 at 12:25 am

This brings an entire new meaning to the classic old advertising campaign phrase: “I’d walk a mile for a camel!”
Jimmy Lewis
SCS, Michigan

Jimmy Lewis on November 18, 2008 at 11:29 am

What we need to do is not just issue weak deportation orders. We need a Devils Island type of penal colony to drag them off to and forget them. Look at the estimated 500,000 a–holes Obamas aunt shares a common trait with. They’re here illegally, have been ordered to leave and won’t. Punishment has to DETER.

samurai on November 18, 2008 at 11:34 am

One thing you have to remember is that most everyone knows that most of the gas stations and party stores in the Detroit Metro Area, are owned by Arabs. So wen you here or read a story like this, you know who the players are, you don’t need to be told. These two news papers will also elimate the race of a perp in a story, they will give a discription but omit the persons race, just to be PC.

Highlander45 on November 18, 2008 at 2:11 pm

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