19 Indicted For Funding Terrorism

Terrorism Funding from Dearborn, Michigan to Lackawanna, New York

31 March 2006: An indictment that was issued by a federal grand jury last April was unsealed Wednesday in the Eastern District of Michigan, charging 19 Arab Muslims with engaging in an international racketeering conspiracy that provided material support to the Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah. While the Islamic “cell” had its roots in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit and the Windsor, Ontario, Canada area, its tentacles spread throughout the U.S. and worldwide. Arrested this week by members of the Detroit Joint Terrorism Task Force were Dearborn, Michigan residents Fadi Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud, 33, Jihad Hammoud, 47, and Ali Najib Berjaoui, 39. Residents of Dearborn Heights who were arrested were Majid Mohamad Hammoud, 39, Youssef Aoun Bakri, 36, and Imad Majed Hamadeh, 51. Mohammed Fawzi Zeidan, 41, of Canton, MI, and Adel Isak, 37, of Sterling Height, MI were also arrested along with Karim Hassan Nasser, 37, of Windsor, Ontario.

Also named in the indictment, but not immediately arrested because they currently reside outside of the United States were Imad Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud, 37 of Lebanon, formerly of Dearborn, Michigan; Hassan Ali Al-Mosawi, 49, of Lebanon; Hassan Hassan Nasser, 36, of Windsor, Ontario; Ali Ahmad Hammoud, 64, of Lebanon; Karim Hassan Abbas, 37, formerly of Dearborn, Michigan; Hassan Mohamad Srour, 30, of Montreal, Quebec; Naji Hassan Alawie, 44, of Windsor, Ontario; and Abdel-Hamid Sinno, 52, of Montreal, Quebec. Theodore Schenk, 73, of Miami Beach, Fla. was not arrested but will be voluntarily surrendering himself for arraignment on April 10, 2006.

The group is charged with buying untaxed cigarettes from the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in western New York (near the home of the “Lackawanna Six”), selling them for a profit nationally and internationally, and engaging in the sales of counterfeit merchandise. The group was engaged in this activity for an eight year period between 1996 and 2004. In addition to the United States, the enterprise was active in Canada, Lebanon, China, Brazil, and Paraguay. A significant portion of the revenue generated from this illegal activity funded the terrorist organization Hezbollah.

The Operation

The indictment alleges that Imad Hammoud, along with his partner, Hassan Makki, ran a multi-million dollar a year contraband cigarette trafficking organization headquartered in the Dearborn, Michigan 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, North Carolina, of, among other crimes, racketeering and providing material support to Hezbollah. Although Makki and Mohamad Hammoud were not charged in this indictment, they were identified as unindicted co-conspirators and are currently serving prison sentences relating to their activities in this matter.

The indictment charges that the group would obtain low-taxed or untaxed cigarettes in North Carolina and the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in New York, transport them to Michigan and other areas within the State of New York for the purpose of evading tens of millions in state cigarette taxes. The group profited heavily by reselling the cigarettes in Arab owned markets in Michigan and New York. To avoid detection, the group also used counterfeit tax stamps on occasion to make it appear that the appropriate state taxes had been paid.

In March 2004, five men were convicted of federal charges for their role in a multi-state ring trafficking untaxed cigarettes. Found guilty after a trial that lasted three-and-a-half weeks in Buffalo, New York were Mohamed Abuhamra, 54 of Lackawanna, NY; Aref Ahmed, 27, of Niagara Falls, NY; Rmzy Abdullah, 52, of Buffalo, NY; Nagib Aziz, 31 of Cheektowaga, NY, and Azzeaz Saleh, 36, of Dearborn, Michigan. In this case, Aref Ahmed provided five members of the “Lackawanna six” with about $15,000 to fund their travel expenses and attendance at terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.