Busted (hat tip: Paul):
Two men were charged Wednesday with money laundering in support of terrorism after authorities said they found airplane passenger lists and information on airport security checkpoints in their car.
Deputies stopped Osama Sabhi Abulhassan, 20, and Ali Houssaiky, 20, both of Dearborn, Mich., on a traffic violation Tuesday and found the flight documents along with $11,000 cash and 12 phones in their car, Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said.
It wasn’t clear what significance the airline information might have. Assistant County Prosecutor Susan Vessels declined to comment on whether the manifests were for upcoming flights or those that already flown. She also would not give the origin or destination of the flight or flights.
FBI spokesman Mike Brooks in Cincinnati said his office was notified about the arrests and had an agent investigating.
Abulhassan and Houssaiky admitted buying about 600 phones in recent months at stores in southeast Ohio, said sheriff’s Maj. John Winstanley. They sold the phones to someone in Dearborn, a Detroit suburb, Winstanley said.
Vessels declined to say how the phones, cash or flight information involved terrorism.
Investigators going through the car after the pair were pulled over in Marietta also found a map that showed locations of Wal-Mart stores from Ohio through Kentucky, Tennessee and into North and South Carolina, Vessels said.
Flashback: Wal-mart, cellphones, suspected terrorism. Ring a bell? It should. Remember this from January:
Federal agents have launched an investigation into a surge in the purchase of large quantities of disposable cell phones by individuals from the Middle East and Pakistan, ABC News has learned.
The phones — which do not require purchasers to sign a contract or have a credit card — have many legitimate uses, and are popular with people who have bad credit or for use as emergency phones tucked away in glove compartments or tackle boxes. But since they can be difficult or impossible to track, law enforcement officials say the phones are widely used by criminal gangs and terrorists.
…Law enforcement officials say the phones were used to detonate the bombs terrorists used in the Madrid train attacks in March 2004.
…The FBI is closely monitoring the potentially dangerous development, which came to light following recent large-quantity purchases in California and Texas, officials confirmed.
In one New Year’s Eve transaction at a Target store in Hemet, Calif., 150 disposable tracfones were purchased. Suspicious store employees notified police, who called in the FBI, law enforcement sources said.
In an earlier incident, at a Wal-mart store in Midland, Texas, on December 18, six individuals attempted to buy about 60 of the phones until store clerks became suspicious and notified the police. A Wal-mart spokesperson confirmed the incident.
Update: Debbie Schlussel, Michigan-based blog sleuth, is all over the story and reports:
After an arraignment hearing in an Ohio courtroom, Houssaiky shouted to reporters that he was “doing my job.” Just what was his “job”? Do Homeland Security and the FBI want to face facts that these are not the only two Muslim All-American boys raised in this country who performing that “job.”
Houssaiky’s alma mater, Dearborn’s Fordson High School, is the most Muslim populated public high school in America. Hate is prevalent in the tax-funded school, and many of its students have been participating in the pro-Hezbollah rallies in town. Did Houssaiky learn it is okay to participate in this “job” from his peers there? From his mosque? Or some other Dearbornistan institution?
In the face of mounting evidence against her brother, Diana Houssaiky claims the arrest of her brother is discrimination because “his name is Ali and his friends name is Osma.” Actually, the discrimination is that Washington County, Ohio Deputy Sheriffs–instead of immediately cuffing the potential terrorists–gave them bottled water and let them sit in the grass to drink it.
The Houssaiky family has called the Michigan American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee to complain about the arrest and ensuing investigation. The organization, headed by “former” Islamic terrorist and FBI award revokee Imad Hamad, is telling people “not to rush to judgment.”
AJ Strata draws some political implications.
It’s just a matter of hours before Michael Chertoff urges law enforcement to be sensitive and CAIR starts whining about profiling.
Flashbacks – Hezbollah in Dearborn:
An illegal immigrant from Lebanon was sentenced Tuesday to 4 1/2 years in prison for conspiring to raise money for the Islamic militant group Hezbollah, which the United States has designated a terrorist group.
Mahmoud Youssef Kourani, 34, pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to support a terrorist organization. Kourani was accused of hosting fund-raising meetings at his home in suburban Detroit in 2002, at which a Hezbollah representative spoke.
He faced up to 15 years but a plea deal called for him to receive no more than five.
According to federal prosecutors, Kourani was a fighter, recruiter and fund-raiser for Hezbollah and operated in both Lebanon and the United States. Prosecutors said his brother, Haidar, was chief of military security for the group in southern Lebanon and directed Kourani’s U.S. activities.
“Hezbollah pays attention to these kinds of cases,” prosecutor Kenneth Chadwell said. “The message, your honor, should be, ‘Don’t come here.'”
Two men pleaded guilty Friday to charges of conspiracy to violate the “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act” (RICO), U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy announced today.
Imad Majed Hamadeh, 51, of Dearborn Heights, and Theodore Schenk, 73, of Miami Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty here before U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen to the following charges: operating a criminal enterprise to traffic in contraband cigarettes, counterfeit Zig Zag rolling papers and counterfeit Viagra; producing counterfeit cigarette tax stamps; transporting stolen property; and money laundering. Sixteen other defendants faced the same charges. Some of the profits derived from the illegal enterprise were given to Hezbollah, a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (DFTO), according to the indictment. The enterprise operated from: Lebanon, Canada, China, Brazil, Paraguay and the United States. Hamadeh and Schenk face a maximum possible penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine…
…Also named in the indictment and currently awaiting a Jan. 7 trial are: Karim Hassan Nasser, 37, of Windsor, Ont.; Fadi Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud, 33, of Dearborn; Majid Mohamad Hammoud, 39, of Dearborn Heights; Jihad Hammoud, 47, of Dearborn; Youssef Aoun Bakri, 36, of Dearborn Heights; Ali Najib Berjaoui, 39, of Dearborn; Mohammed Fawzi Zeidan, 41, of Canton; and Adel Isak, 37, of Sterling Heights. An indictment is only a charge, and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Others charged in the indictment, who are currently wanted as fugitives, believed to be outside the United States, are: Imad Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud, 37 of Lebanon, formerly of Dearborn; Hassan Ali Al-Mosawi, 49, of Lebanon; Hassan Hassan Nasser, 36, of Windsor, Ont.; Ali Ahmad Hammoud, 64, of Lebanon; Karim Hassan Abbas, 37, formerly of Dearborn; Hassan Mohamad Srour, 30, of Montreal, Quebec; Naji Hassan Alawie, 44, of Windsor, Ont.; and Abdel-Hamid Sinno, 52, of Montreal, Quebec.
The indictment alleges that Imad Hammoud, along with his partner, Hassan Makki, ran a multi-million dollar per year contraband cigarette-trafficking organization headquartered in the Dearborn, Mich., area between 1996 and 2002. Makki pleaded guilty in 2003 in federal district court in Detroit to racketeering and providing material support to Hezbollah. Some of the cigarettes were supplied to the organization by Mohamad Hammoud, who was convicted in 2002 in federal district court in Charlotte, N.C., of, among other crimes, racketeering and providing material support to Hezbollah. Makki and Mohamad Hammoud, who were not charged in the indictment unsealed today, were identified as un-indicted co-conspirators. They both are currently serving prison sentences relating to their activities in this matter.
The indictment further charges that the group obtained low-taxed or untaxed cigarettes in North Carolina and the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in New York, and brought them into Michigan and the State of New York for the purpose of evading tens of millions of dollars in state cigarette taxes. The enterprise obtained large profits by reselling the cigarettes at market prices in Michigan and New York. The enterprise sometimes used counterfeit tax stamps to make it appear that the state taxes had been paid.
According to the indictment, portions of the profits made from the illegal enterprise were given to Hezbollah. Some members of the enterprise charged a “Resistance Tax,” being a set amount over black market price per carton of contraband cigarettes, which their customers were told would be going to Hezbollah. Some members of the enterprise also solicited money from cigarette customers for “the orphans of martyrs program” run by Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon to support the families of Hezbollah suicide bombers and other terrorist operations.
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