Seven Virginia residents have been sentenced for their participation in federal crimes that, collectively, included extortion, gun distribution, efforts to bribe a federal agent and conspiracies including visa, and marriage fraud. The convictions end a three-year investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Joseph Persichini, Jr., Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, and Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, announced the details of this investigation today after the sentencing of the final defendant by United States District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee.
Akram Salih, 34, of Alexandria, Va., pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit a crime of violence in which he admitted that he paid an FBI source to use force to collect an outstanding debt from an associate. Salih was sentenced today to 12 months and one day in prison.
Assisting the FBI in the investigation were the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Department of State. Assistant United States Attorney Jeanine Linehan prosecuted the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
“The FBI takes seriously all those who thrive in a daily criminal culture such as seen here,” said Mr. Persichini, “And, the FBI is particularly concerned about the activities of those who brag about selling a missile to hit the Pentagon or casually discuss the sale of large quantities of assault rifles. These individuals, some who are here illegally, abused the freedoms they were afforded here.”
Six defendants involved in related crimes and conspiracies were sentenced previously:
* Amjad Mustafa Hamed, 32, of Springfield, Va., a lawful permanent resident, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport an illegal firearm and conspiracy to commit visa fraud. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
* Ibrahim Fadel Hamed, 28, of Alexandria, Va., a lawful permanent resident, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport an illegal firearm. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison.
* Sameh Ibrahim, 51, of Alexandria, Va., a citizen of Egypt who is illegally present in the U.S., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe an ICE Special Agent and immigration fraud for his involvement in a fraudulent marriage. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison.
* Ayman Ibrahim, 22, of Alexandria, Va., a citizen of Egypt who is illegally present in the U.S., pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting his father’s marriage fraud. He was sentenced to approximately four months of imprisonment. Basem Ibrahim, 20, Ayman’s brother, also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting his father’s marriage fraud and was sentenced to approximately five months of imprisonment.
* Mohammed Jameel Abdelazez, 46, of Alexandria, Va., a lawful permanent resident, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe a federal agent and was sentenced to three years probation. Abdalazez attempted to arrange for an FBI source to bribe an ICE Special Agent. The Agent was, in fact, never approached as a result of the arrest.
“This case is an outstanding example of federal agencies working together to halt a conspiracy created solely to help people circumvent the immigration process,” said Mark X. McGraw, Deputy Special Agent in Charge for ICE’s Office of Investigations in Washington, D.C. “The sentencing today reflects the commitment of ICE, its federal law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure that our nation’s security is not breached in this manner.”
Court documents show that the FBI investigation was initiated in 2005 after one of the defendants, Amjad Mustafa Hamed, approached an FBI source and attempted to purchase six U.S. visas so they could be placed on six Palestinian Authority passports that had been smuggled into the United States. Hamed told the source he had six associates who wished to emigrate from Jordan and the West Bank area of Israel/Palestine. Hamed indicated that the six passports were just the beginning and that if the source was successful, Hamed’s connections would provide additional passports and make the source “a millionaire.”
Several defendants approached the confidential source to commit a variety of crimes for a fee, according to court records. According to court documents, the FBI source was hired as part of the conspiracy to use force to collect an outstanding debt of $38,000 from a man in Chicago, and then Akram Salih accepted a $10,000 payment after he believed the act had occurred.
During the three-year investigation, defendants were told by a cooperator that he was seeking to help Hizballah, a terrorist organization whose activities are banned in the United States.
According to court documents, over the ensuing months, Amjad Hamed discussed the three times he was imprisoned in an Israeli jail and how to communicate covertly so the Israeli Intelligence could not decipher the communications. During the discussion and sale of weapons, Amjad Hamed indicated he could transport weapons to the middle of Lebanon and had access to as many as ten M-16 fully automatic rifles at a time from his supplier. One of the weapons sold had an obliterated serial number.
In one conversation, on or about June 21, 2007, Amjad Hamed showed and sold the source a fully equipped sniper rifle and said in his monthly shipment he could get the source a missile. Court documents showed that when the source expressed doubt about its capabilities, Amjad Hamed told the source: “When I say missile, it is with everything … with the controls if you want you can reach the Pentagon.” The source replied: “With the controls” what” You want to hit the Pentagon?” Amjad Hamed replied, “You can put the bottle on it, the blue bottle and hit the Pentagon.”
Ibrahim Hamed subsequently told the source he had provided the weapons sold and that he could get more and better guns.
The three-year investigation ended with all seven defendants arrested without incident Sept. 29, 2008.