Skip to comments.Seven Charged For Illegal Export of Electronics to U.S. Designated Terrorist Entity in Paraguay
Posted on 02/19/2010 3:52:54 PM PST by Cindy
Note: The following text SNIPPET is a quote:
SEVEN CHARGED FOR ILLEGAL EXPORT OF ELECTRONICS TO U.S. DESIGNATED TERRORIST ENTITY IN PARAGUAY February 19, 2010 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jeffrey H. Sloman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Office of Investigations, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Harold Woodward, Director of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Michael Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, Department of Commerce (DOC), Adam J. Szubin, Director, Department of the Treasurys, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and Michael Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Miami Field Office, announced the indictment of four individuals and three Miami businesses on charges involving the export of electronics to a U.S. designated terrorist entity in Paraguay.
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. The Indictment also seeks the forfeiture of an amount equal to the value of the electronics that were illegally exported. If convicted, the individual defendants face up to 20 years imprisonment on the IEEPA charges, 10 years imprisonment on the smuggling charges, and 5 years imprisonment on the conspiracy charge. The companies each face up to five years probation on all charges, and fines of up to $1,000,000 on the IEEPA charges, and $250,000 on the smuggling and conspiracy charges, respectively.
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, which are scheduled for Monday, March 1, 2010, at 10:00 a.m.
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.
On September 23, 2001, pursuant to his authority under IEEPA, then President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13224, and declared a national emergency to deal with the threat of acts of terrorism and threats of terrorism committed by foreign terrorists. The Executive Order empowered the U.S. Secretary of State to designate individuals or entities as having committed or as posing a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism that threaten the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States. The Order also authorized the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury to designate certain individuals or entities as owned or controlled by, acting for or on behalf of, or providing support to, foreign terrorists. Executive Order 13224 blocked the property interests of such designated entities and persons, known as SDGTs. This Executive Order was in effect at all times relevant to this Indictment.
To implement Executive Order 13224, the U.S. Department of Treasury, through the OFAC, issued regulations that, among other things, prohibited any transactions or dealings in blocked property, or any transactions with an SDGT by a U.S. person in the absence of a specific license granted by OFAC. No such licenses were granted to the defendants here.
U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman stated, The U.S. Attorneys Office, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to vigorously enforce OFAC regulations and federal laws designed to shut down financing to individuals or entities that pose a potential threat to our national security.
This international ICE led multi-jurisdictional investigation demonstrates ICEs mission to identify, investigate, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations that support designated terrorist entities and participate in the illicit trade of commodities that support terrorist activities and ultimately threaten the national security of the United States, said Anthony V. Mangione, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Miami.
FBI Special Agent in Charge John V. Gillies, stated, The tri-border region is an area of concern to the FBI and our law enforcement partners both in the United States and overseas. We will continue our efforts to safeguard our national security and economic interests, including investigations of violations of our export laws that harm the United States.
Harold Woodward Director of Field Operations for Customs and Border Protection stated The changing face of terrorists and other criminal groups pose an increased area of concern for CBP and by fostering relationships with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies and foreign governments we improve the total security of global trade and travel. Dismantling these criminal organizations plays a major role in insuring the safety of our homeland.
OFAC will continue to pursue aggressive enforcement actions against domestic and foreign entities that conduct business with terrorist-linked entities through the United States," said OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin.
Mr. Sloman commended the investigative efforts of ICEs Office of Investigations in Miami, FBI, CBP, DOC, OFAC, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. State Department, Office of the ICE Attaché Buenos Aires and Office of the ICE Attaché Brasilia, and the cooperation of the Paraguayan and Brazilian governments. ICEs Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Center and Trade Transparency Unit assisted in the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Allyson Fritz and Russell Koonin, and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Mariclaire Rourke.
An Indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Great. Our Muslim Fifth Column is in the freight-forwarding business. How convenient for them.
I don’t really understand the problem with a couple of playstations and digital cameras going out of the country. what is so “prohibited” about them—that can’t be gotten anywhere?? We are not talking about pulse-neutron tubes or Krytrons, after all. THOSE WOULD be something to worry about.
"...and Jomana Import Export owner Samer Mehdi is still at large."
Here's your answer:
"...announced the indictment of four individuals and three Miami businesses on charges involving the export of electronics to a U.S. designated terrorist entity in Paraguay."
You can’t ship anything to a designated terrorist entity.
Whether it’s peanuts or playstations.
“3 men charged in Miami with financing Hezbollah”
snippet: “Indictment says suspects ran companies using Miami port to move goods to Paraguay shopping center included on US banned list of suspected terrorist fundraising networks. Center’s owner, Muhammad Yusif Abdallah considered a senior Hezbollah leader in South American region”
Published: 02.19.10, 23:08 / Israel News
SNIPPET: “Three men were charged in an indictment unsealed Friday with illegally exporting electronics and video games to a South American shopping center that US officials claim funnels money to Hezbollah.
The men, along with a fourth still being sought in South America...”
Let’s see how “the one” responds to this.
MMMM...I had to hunt around to find the info.
Another “Friday” news dump. How convenient.
If youd like to be on or off, please FR mail me.
The Amish, again.
Play Stations and similar electronics can be adapted to perform tasks that are military related. One of the US armed services actually figured out a similar assembly of such “toys” was cheaper than buying a specially built unit for a certain weapons related task.
Paraguay has a region that is notorious for its Islamic related denizens. The bombing of a Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the 1990s (resulting in the largest number of Jews murdered outside of Israel) was traced back the the Cuidad del Este, or “City of the East” in Paraguay. Paraguayans are great folks, for the most part. The Islamists, not so much. This is a real threat, not a silly imagining of “toys for terrorists.”
You missed another point. There have been articles about PLO and Hamas/Hezbullah towns in the border areas of Paraguay and possibly Venezuela or Bolivia, etc.
No real concrete documentation has come out of this but the presence of a terrorist front operation in Paraguay might open up this whole can of worms.
Hope someone follows this story.
RE Documentation, Hezbollah and Paraguay:
stepping back in time...
Hezbollah builds a Western base
MSNBC.com ^ | 5/9/07 | Pablo Gato and Robert Windrem
Posted on May 9, 2007 8:31:08 AM PDT by TheKidster
Hezbollah builds a Western base
MSNBC.com ^ | 5/9/07 | Pablo Gato and Robert Windrem
Posted on May 9, 2007 8:31:08 AM PDT by TheKidster
CIUDAD DEL ESTE, Paraguay - The Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia has taken root in South America, fostering a well-financed force of Islamist radicals boiling with hatred for the United States and ready to die to prove it, according to militia members, U.S. officials and police agencies across the continent.
(Excerpt) Read more at msnbc.msn.com ...
stepping back in time...
Note: The following post is a quote:
Revealed: The South American Connection (Terrorists)
The Telegraph (UK) ^ | 11-9-2003
Posted on November 8, 2003 5:37:38 PM PST by blam
Revealed: the South American connection
A lawless frontier is helping to finance Arab extremists. Philip Sherwell reports from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
They work from dawn until dusk on the traffic-clogged Friendship Bridge that runs across the Parana River between the seedy Paraguayan city of Ciudad del Este and its neighbour, Foz do Iguacu in Brazil.
By foot, bicycle and motorcycle or packed into cars, vans and buses, the people known as “ants” criss-cross the bridge several times a day with sacks and boxes laden with counterfeit cigarettes, pirated CDs and computer software and fake designer clothes.
For each run, they earn about $1 (62p), their share of one of the world’s least regulated and most lucrative trading free-for-alls. The zone is known as the Triple Frontier, where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet at a bend in the Parana near the horseshoe waterfalls of Iguacu. There are 80,000 journeys across the bridge each day.
To the north, on the man-made lake behind the Itaipu dam, smugglers skirt occasional Brazilian police vessels as they carry marijuana and cocaine by boat from Paraguay to Brazil and ship stolen vehicles back in the opposite direction. The money generated is near-impossible to calculate. Argentine officials believe that the figure for all cross-border transactions in the area could be $70 million (£44 million) each day.
Much of the business - legal and illegal - is controlled by a population of 30,000, mainly Shia Muslim Arabs who fled the Lebanese civil war. They run their enterprises from the shabby shopping malls and chaotic streets of Ciudad del Este but usually live in the more affluent Foz. Among them is a small but dedicated hardcore of militant Muslims. For years, often under the guise of charitable donations, millions of dollars have flowed from the Triple Frontier to Hizbollah, the Iranian-backed militant Lebanese Shi’ite faction. Money was also raised for Hamas, the Palestinian extremist group.
Despite a limited crackdown and handful of arrests by the Paraguayan authorities, David Aufhauser, the outgoing United States Treasury Department official on terrorist funding, last month described the Triple Frontier zone as home to a “rich marriage of drugs and terror”. A senior US State Department official said: “In terms of terrorist financing, the area is a black hole.”
The money trail is complex and difficult to trace but The Telegraph has learnt that American intelligence officials have electronically monitored cash transfers via banks in Sao Paulo and North America to a web of accounts in the Middle East linked to Hizbollah and Hamas. They also disclosed that the US has been using satellites to monitor telephone conversations in the area after learning that Middle East terror suspects were dialling so-called switching stations in Foz or Ciudad del Este and giving a password to have their calls re-routed to their destination.
The procedure made calls impossible to trace and avoided triggering interception mechanisms. More than a dozen switching stations have been found and closed down in recent months. To the frustration of the US, cracking down on the terror financing operations has been much more difficult, especially as Paraguay and Brazil want to resuscitate tourism at the falls and to avoid losing the Arabs’ business acumen.
Corruption is rampant and financial controls have been lax for so long that they verge on the non-existent. Money-laundering is conducted through myriad front companies, under-invoicing is endemic and the plethora of foreign exchange offices, money-wiring companies and commercial banks offer ample scope for moving large sums unnoticed.
A recent Brazilian customs investigation indicated the scale of illicit financial movements through the Triple Frontier. It concluded that between 1996 and 2000, an estimated $35 billion (£22 billion) had been moved illegally from Brazilian accounts held in Foz via a Paraguayan bank in neighbouring Ciudad del Este to New York. “It is easy to understand Ciudad del Este,” said a lawyer there. “All you need to know is that everyone here is a bandit.”
US and local intelligence have also traced visits by several terrorist leaders to the Triple Frontier and believe that it was used as a staging post in the attacks on Jewish targets in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s. Al-Qaeda has contacts in the region. Tourist posters of the waterfalls were found in safe houses in Afghanistan but reports of terrorist training camps in the jungle have been widely dismissed.
In the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion, Sobhi Fayad is serving six-and-a-half years for tax evasion, a hefty punishment in a country where financial crimes are a way of life. The Lebanese trader from Ciudad del Este is a shabby figure with a wheezing cough who looks a decade older than his 36 years. His true offence, according to US intelligence and Paraguayan prosecutors, is a leading role in collecting funds for Hizbollah from other Lebanese businessmen but the country has no anti-terrorism laws so Fayad was prosecuted for tax evasion - the same tactic used by the American authorities finally to jail the mobster Al Capone.
Although Fayad denies the allegations, claiming that he was framed by a Lebanese business rival, the Paraguayans say he moved $1.8 million (£1.1 million) to foreign bank accounts and recovered a certificate of thanks for his donations from Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah leader. “The Americans just wanted scapegoats after the September 11 attack,” he told me during a brief meeting. “I was one of the unlucky ones.”
Ciudad del Este’s Arabs deny that they are harbouring terrorist supporters - although, in any case, Hizbollah is widely regarded as a legitimate political and military force. Fayad is a friend and former business associate of Assad Barakat, the alleged head of the Hizbollah fund-raising wing who is in jail in Brazil fighting extradition to Paraguay. The two men ran their computer games businesses from the Page Gallery in the heart of Ciudad del Este. When we visited it last week, we were quickly escorted off the premises by armed security guards.
Outside the nearby Islamic cultural centre, however, Tony Barakat was keen to defend his uncle. He said that he also had been framed, but then acknowledged that he had made “charitable” donations to Hizbollah. “Yes, some people here support the work of Hizbollah. We have to have guns, otherwise the Israelis would wipe us out. It is no crime that my uncle helped the orphans and widows of martyrs.”
Just across the border in Argentina, Roberto Ontiveros, head of the anti-terrorism unit, dismisses such remarks. “Millions of dollars are going to these so-called charities,” he said. “Just how many crutches and bandages can you buy?”
Regarding post no. 1:
“South Florida Indictment Indirectly Alleges Hizballah Support”
By IPT News | February 19, 2010 at 8:20 pm
SNIPPET: “Hizballah is never mentioned in the 19-page indictment, but it does cite the Treasury order which targeted alleged the terrorist group’s financiers “in the Triple Frontier of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.””
Stepping back in time...
FROM THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
June 10, 2004
“Treasury Designates Islamic Extremist, Two Companies Supporting Hizballah in Tri-Border Area”
Re post no. 17...
stepping back in time....
“Hizballah Fundraising Network in the Triple Frontier”
U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT
OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
December 6, 2006
“Treasury Targets Hizballah Fundraising Network in the Triple Frontier of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay”
SNIPPET: “The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated nine individuals and two entities that have provided financial and logistical support to the Hizballah terrorist organization. The designees are located in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay and have provided financial and other services for Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) Assad Ahmad Barakat, who was previously designated in June 2004 for his support to Hizballah leadership.
“Assad Ahmad Barakat’s network in the Tri-Border Area is a major financial artery to Hizballah in Lebanon,” said Adam Szubin, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).”
Mennonites. Let’s not be Amish-bashers.
NOTE The following text is a quote:
Alleged Supporter of Terrorist Group Extradited from Paraguay
PHILADELPHIAMoussa Ali Hamdan, 38, a dual citizen of the United States and Lebanon and a former resident of Brooklyn, New York, made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia today after being extradited from Paraguay. He is being held pending a detention hearing. Hamdan is among several defendants charged in a conspiracy to provide material support to Hizballah, a designated foreign terrorist organization. He was indicted November 24, 2009, along with nine co-defendants. Hamdan was taken into U.S. custody in Asuncion, Paraguay, on Thursday, by U.S. Marshals who escorted him to Washington, D.C., where members of the FBIs Joint Terrorism Task Force took him into custody.
At the time of the indictment, Hamdan had left the United States. On June 15, 2010, Paraguayan authorities arrested him in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Paraguay for the crime of material support of terrorism.
Hamdan is charged in 28 of the 31 counts in the indictment, including conspiring to provide material support to Hizballah in the form of proceeds from the sale of counterfeit money, stolen (genuine) money, and fraudulent passports. According to the indictment, Hamdan and several other defendants were also charged with several counts of transporting stolen goods, trafficking in counterfeit goods, and making false statements to government officials.
According to a related criminal complaint Hamdan began purchasing purportedly stolen cellular telephones from a cooperating witness acting as an agent of the government and participated in the purchase and transportation of purportedly stolen goods on numerous occasions. These stolen goods included cellular telephones, laptop computers, Sony Play Station 2 systems, and automobiles, which the conspirators caused to be transported to destinations outside Pennsylvania, including overseas destinations such as Lebanon and Benin (Africa). Hamdan also allegedly bought counterfeit goodsnamely, counterfeit Nike® shoes and Mitchell & Ness® sports jerseysfrom the cooperating witness. The complaint details efforts by defendants Moussa Ali Hamdan and his co-defendants to sell the CW counterfeit United States currency for the purpose of raising funds for Hizballah. In total, the conspirators provided the CW with approximately $10,000 in counterfeit United States currency. The complaint also alleges that certain of Hamdans co-defendants generated additional funds for Hizballah by selling fraudulent passports. The CW and the defendants participated in the purchase of two fake passportsone from the United Kingdom and one from Canadafor the benefit of Hizballah. Hamdan allegedly agreed to pay $10,000 towards the purchase of these passports, in order to satisfy a debt he owed to the CW.
If convicted of all charges, Hamdan faces a statutory maximum sentence of 260 years in prison.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations Joint Terrorism Task Force, the New Jersey State Police, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the United States Secret Service, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Philadelphia Police Department, Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Customs and Border Protection, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Federal Air Marshals, Pennsylvania State Police, and the Philadelphia Police Department.
It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nancy Beam Winter and Vineet Gauri, and National Security Division Counterterrorism Section Trial Attorney Jolie F. Zimmerman.
The U.S. Attorneys Office would like to extend special thanks to the Paraguayan judicial and law enforcement authorities, including the U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay, for their invaluable assistance in the arrest and subsequent extradition of Hamdan, as well as the Office of International Affairs and U.S. Embassy, Asuncion, Diplomatic Security personnel who were involved in ensuring Hamdans capture and return to the United States.
NOTE: It is unknown to me at this time if the press release in post no. 21 is associated with the press release in post no. 1.
Updates will be posted as time goes on.