Iowa: First Muslim to join Peace Corps found guilty in halal export scheme

via Midamar founder Aossey found guilty of conspiracy, false statement, wire fraud charges | TheGazette.

CEDAR RAPIDS — Convicted Monday of most charges in a halal beef exporting scheme, Midamar Corp. founder William Aossey Jr. was put in jail while a federal judge considers what to do with the 73-year-old until his sentencing.

Aossey was convicted by a jury on 15 of 19 federal charges involving the sale of misbranded “halal” beef products and falsifying export documents and certificates.

The founder of the Cedar Rapids company, at 1105 60th Ave. S.W., was accused in October 2014 of falsely representing that the beef he was exporting to Malaysia and Indonesia met strict slaughtering standards.

After a trial last week, the jury acquitted him Monday of four charges of money laundering but convicted him on other charges including conspiracy and wire fraud. He could face years in prison when sentenced.

Aossey, who was free during his trial, was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals after the government asked for him to remain in jail pending his sentencing. He appeared in leg chains for the detention hearing.

During that hearing, U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade heard testimony about Aossey’s relationships with others charged with crimes — including Ali Al Herz and three of his family members, accused of trying to smuggle guns to Lebanon — and his international ties that pose a flight risk.

Haytham Faraj, Aossey’s attorney, argued his client isn’t charged in the gun smuggling case. Aossey didn’t know that weapons were in a shipping container so it’s “guilt by association” to try to link him to that case, Faraj said.

Months ago, Midamar initiated a clothing drive to collect items for refugees in Lebanon.

Midamar employees testified Monday they boxed up some items for the shipment but didn’t know about the guns and said the container belonged to Ali Al Herz, not Midamar or Aossey.

Cedar Rapids Police Det. John Matias, who is working the gun smuggling investigation, testified Aossey and Ali Al Herz were good friends and that Al Herz had worked at Midamar for several years in the past.

He said Aossey called the freight company, upset, when he learned the container was being searched by authorities. Matias said Aossey called it “my” container.

Matias then identified a photo from a surveillance video that showed Aossey looking in the container that was at Midamar in May. He also walked inside of it.

However, the guns were found hidden within Bobcat skid loaders in the shipment and couldn’t easily be seen.

Michael Hare, an IRS special agent, testified that Aossey showed up after authorities arrived with a search warrant at Midamar in May and was “disrespectful” and “belligerent,” demanding to have agents’ names.

Reade said it was odd Aossey would be so agitated if he didn’t think anything was wrong.

Faraj said it was understandable from Aossey’s perspective because he was trying to do something good by sending relief items to refugees, and being stopped by authorities for an unknown reason.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Murphy admitted there wasn’t direct information tying Aossey to buying or smuggling guns. But he argued it was difficult to believe Aossey didn’t know about it.

Murphy said Aossey couldn’t be “trusted to abide” by the law. He said Aossey had worldwide connections and could leave the country.

Murphy added that Aossey admitted during the beef export trial to breaking the law by telling employees to remove required USDA labels and directing others to falsify export documents.

Faraj argued Aossey’s entire life is in Cedar Rapids — his work and family — and he wouldn’t risk it by leaving the country.

Reade, however, said Aossey will remain in jail until she makes a ruling on whether to release him pending sentencing, which could be, at least, a few months away.

Aossey was found guilty of 15 counts — one count of conspiracy to make false statements, sell misbranded meat and commit mail and wire fraud; seven counts of making or causing false statements to be made on export applications; and seven counts of wire fraud.

Each count of the wire fraud alone calls for up to 20 years.


Aossey’s bio claims he was the “first Muslim-American to join the Peace Corps”. More on the halal fraud, via Understanding Halal Certification Schemes.

 

Iowa: Gun-smuggling Muslim had ties to Hezbollah; threatened to honor kill daughter

…for marrying a non-Muslim. An update on this post from last week, Iowa: 4 Muslims arrested for smuggling guns to Syria in halal food container.

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via Gun smuggling suspect had ties to Hezbollah, agent says.

The eldest of four Cedar Rapids family members accused of smuggling firearms into Lebanon is a Hezbollah sympathizer who met with reported members of the terrorist group during a trip abroad, federal agents testified Friday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Murphy called six witnesses to paint Ali Afif Al Herz as loyal to the Lebanese-based Shi’ite militant and political organization. The United States is one of several nations that have classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Murphy intended the testimony from agents with the Department of Homeland Security and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to persuade Chief Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles to keep Herz, 50, in county jail while awaiting trial on charges that he and three other family members tried to smuggle hundreds of guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition into Lebanon, hiding it in storage containers.

Defense lawyer Anne Laverty quickly accused Murphy of using “distraction and fear tactics” with no supporting evidence that ties Herz to any terrorist group. Herz came to the United States in 1984 for college and gave up on religion after watching decades of strife in Lebanon and the Middle East, she said.

“He has specifically rejected religion,” she said. “He has no ties to religious extremists here or in Lebanon.”

Authorities on Tuesday jailed Herz; his son, Adam Ben Ali Al Herz, 22; his brother, Bassem Afif Herz, 30; and his brother’s wife, Sarah Majid Zeaiter, 24, on charges of attempting to illegally smuggle firearms into Beirut, Lebanon. An investigation led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found the four purchased at least 113 rifles and handguns from Iowa gun stores over a 17-month period.

Staying in jail

In a ruling Friday afternoon, Scoles decided to leave Ali Herz behind bars, along with Herz’s son and sister-in-law, who were also charged. All three have lived for significant periods in Lebanon and could have enough money to flee, he said. There’s “strong evidence” against the family members, and a conviction on the charges could result in a five-year prison sentence, Scoles said.

Bassem Herz, 29, waived a detention hearing and will remain in custody. The men are all U.S. citizens, and Zeaiter is a lawful permanent resident, according to criminal complaints.

The magistrate noted that no evidence produced Friday linked the guns to Hezbollah fighters or other terrorist groups.

Scoles said it is just as possible that the guns were being sent for Lebanese citizens seeking to protect themselves in a country increasingly destabilized by the civil war in neighboring Syria and the threat of the Islamic State group.

“It’s possible that they were intended for terrorist organizations for bad purposes,” Scoles said. “I’m not going to speculate … there’s no evidence to any of that.”

Wearing handcuffs and an orange jail uniform, Ali Herz smiled and waved at family members as he left the courtroom.

Guns hidden in (halal food) containers

On March 26 and May 8 authorities searched shipping containers connected to a company called Herz Enterprises, finding 152 guns and thousands of rounds of ammo hidden inside shipments of Bobcat skid loaders.

The hearing shed new light on the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation into the family, revealing that Ali Herz reportedly confessed after his arrest Tuesday to organizing two shipments of guns to Lebanon in 2014 and another in 2015.

Special agent Daniel Tigges testified that Herz said in an interview that he expected after the third shipment that the group would have netted $380,000 from the smuggling operation.

Tigges said Herz claimed he took half the profits and split the rest with his son, Adam, and brother, Bassem.

“He admitted that he knew it was wrong to ship guns out of the country,” he said.

In front of the packed courtroom, Murphy, the prosecutor, displayed a photo found on Ali Herz’s Facebook page of Hezbollah founding member Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. At another point, he showed a picture of a pristine multi-story house in Lebanon with a neatly manicured lawn that Herz’s defense attorney said he built “brick by brick.”

It’s suspicious that Herz owned a pristine house in a violent country, Murphy said.

“It makes one wonder what the connections are that allows that to go on,” he said. “At a minimum, what is going on here is these people are selling firearms for huge, huge profits.”

Cedar Rapids Police detective John Matias testified about years-old reports authorities took detailing suspicious behavior by Ali and Bassem Herz.

In March 2010, an informant reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation that Bassem Herz asked through Facebook whether the informant could obtain rifles with attached grenade launchers, Matias said. The informant reported that Herz said he wanted the guns to turn a profit.

Conflicting portraits

Dueling portraits of Ali emerged from witnesses and his attorney; one as potentially deadly and another as a hardworking father who spent time volunteering to help displaced Iraqi families resettle in Cedar Rapids.

In 2003, Herz’s now ex-wife, Roberta, was interviewed by federal agents and a Cedar Rapids detective, telling them that in 1992 she saw her husband meet with approximately 10 men at a Lebanese apartment complex owned by Herz’s father while the two visited the country.

She reported that at least two of the men carried “assault-style” rifles during the meeting, Matias said.

“She said afterwards she was told by Ali that they were Hezbollah,” the detective said.

Tigges also testified that Roberta Herz told authorities that Ali threatened to kill their adult daughter after she married a non-Muslim. But on cross-examination from Laverty, Tigges said “to his knowledge” the daughter, who lives in Cedar Rapids, was never questioned about the reported death threat as part of the investigation.

Zeaiter, who listened through headphones to a translator, handled finances for the operation, Murphy said.

When the apartment she and Bassem Herz share was raided Tuesday, authorities found a ledger with firearms, quantities and resale prices written in Zeaiter’s hand. The prosecutor also alleged that Bassem Herz and Zeaiter took their baby along on gun buys as a strategic mask and showed surveillance video of the three together buying firearms at a Scheels All Sports.

“What’s more innocent than a young person with their baby, just coming out to buy guns,” Murphy said.

 

Iowa: 4 Muslims arrested for smuggling guns to Syria in halal food container

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Halal food firm Midamar in the middle of more criminal activity.  via US Charges 4 After Intercepting Gun Shipments to Lebanon – ABC News.

Four relatives were charged in Iowa on Tuesday with conspiring to smuggle guns and ammunition to Lebanon that were hidden with equipment exports and supplies for Syrian refugees.

Federal agents intercepted cargo containers in March and again last week that were bound for Beirut carrying a total of 152 firearms and 16,000 rounds of ammunition, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday.

The suspects were identified as Ali Herz, 50 and his 22-year-old son, Adam Herz; Ali Herz’s younger brother, Bassem Herz, 29; and Bassam Herz’s wife, Al Sarah Zeaiter, 24. All four live in Cedar Rapids, where they were arrested Tuesday as local, state and federal officers executed search warrants in the city.

During initial court appearances Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Linda Reade ordered them jailed pending a detention hearing set for Friday.

“We believe there is immense risk to public safety,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Rich Murphy.

The four said little in court, where they appeared in street clothes, their wrists handcuffed and legs shackled. Their attorneys declined to comment on the allegations following the hearing.

The complaint says the four came under suspicion as they stockpiled more than $100,000 worth of guns and ammunition legally purchased from dealers in eastern Iowa over the last 17 months. A gun store owner in February expressed concerns to authorities after the group twice purchased all of his store’s 5.7 millimeter ammunition. One of the men also requested accessories for military-style rifles after reviewing a text message written in a foreign language, the owner reported.

On Tuesday, agents searched a pizza shop linked to Bassem Herz; a Cedar Rapids address tied to Adam Herz; and Midamar Corp., a maker of halal foods whose shipping service the alleged conspirators used to transport the firearms.

No one with Midamar was charged in the alleged plot. Midamar attorney Michael Lahammer said company employees were unaware the weapons were in the containers and weren’t involved with packing them. He said a company named in the complaint, Herz Enterprises, contracted with Midamar to use its shipping facility, which is made available to other exporters.

Midamar was “used to facilitate this illegal activity by Herz Enterprises, if what the government says is true,” he said.

The firearms found in March were hidden inside of a container that had three skid loaders that were being exported and Midamar boxes marked “Syria” that were filled with clothing, shoes, honey and household supplies.

Midamar made arrangements to ship the container after its founder, Bill Aossey, promoted a clothing drive for Syrian refugees stranded in Lebanon, the complaint says. In an online posting seeking donations, Aossey wrote that the supplies would be added to an equipment container already scheduled for export.

After the container arrived by train at a seaport in Norfolk, Virginia, investigators found 53 guns and 6,800 rounds of ammunition during a March 26 inspection.

Last week, agents searched a container the suspects had brought to Midamar for shipment that had 99 firearms, over 9,500 rounds of ammunition and firearms parts and accessories that were hidden in skid loaders and inside suitcases and boxes that contained clothing.

The four suspects, who are in the United States legally, are not licensed to sell or export firearms, the complaint says. An earlier shipment wasn’t intercepted, and investigators cannot account for dozens of weapons they purchased.

The Herzes previously caught attention for their ties abroad.

Ali Herz, who was born in Lebanon, had $61,400 in cash on him when he returned to the U.Ss from overseas in December and has sent and received $160,000 in wire transfers over the last two years, the complaint says. Adam Herz, a college student born in the United States, was questioned after returning to the U.S. in 2012 and 2014 from what he said were lengthy visits to Lebanon. Bassem Herz, who was born in Kuwait, has made many trips abroad and previously exported other equipment to Lebanon. Zeaiter said she is a citizen of Lebanon who is a college student.

More via Officials carry out raids at Midamar.

Firearms seized by authorities

Name First purchase Last purchase Firearms purchased Firearms seized
Adam Herz 12/18/2014 2/27/2015 26 16
Ali Herz 12/18/2013 3/12/2015 51 34
Bassem Herz 12/18/2014 2/25/2015 32 15
Sarah Zeaiter 7/14/2014 2/23/2015 4 1
Total 12/13/2013 3/12/2015 113 66

About: Listed are the four individuals believed by authorities to have purchased firearms with the intention of shipping them to the Middle East. The table shows how many firearms each individual purchased, as well as how many of those have been seized.

h/t and more via Daniel Greenfield.

 

Iowa: Governor signs proclamation for ‘Muslim Recognition Day’, opens with Muslim prayer at Capitol

Video added, h/t reader Martin. Muslims might be celebrating another step towards conquering the infidel but it’s not clear what non-Muslim elected officials were celebrating in Iowa. via Muslim Day celebrated at Iowa Capitol with pastries, proclamation.

1396891551000-Muslim-proclamation

It was Iowa Muslim day at the Iowa Capitol on Monday with Muslims sharing pastries and other ethnic foods in the Rotunda while providing information about their faith and work in Iowa.

Gov. Terry Branstad signed a proclamation for Muslim Recognition Day in Iowa, something the Republican chief executive first did in 1992 during his previous tenure as governor.

About 50 Iowa Muslims joined him in the governor’s formal office and applauded during a signing ceremony.

The Muslims who gathered at the Capitol included native-born Iowans, and Muslims who have immigrated to Iowa from Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Egypt and other countries.


And elected officials continue failing to vet those with whom they continue to meet and be seen with.

More on Iowa here.

Allowing prayers for their own destruction?

Iowa: Two more Muslims indicted in Islamic halal money laundering scheme

An update on the First Muslim to join Peace Corps charged in “halal” export scheme. It seems his sons were in on it too. via Midamar corporate officers indicted on 92 counts involving misbranding Halal beef products – TheGazette.

CEDAR RAPIDS — Corporate officers of Midamar Corp. and Islamic Services of America in Cedar Rapids were indicted on 92 federal charges Friday, involving mislabeling of Halal beef products and falsifying documents.

Jalel Aossey, 40 and brother William “Yahya” Aossey, 44, both of Cedar Rapids, and each of the businesses are charged with one count of conspiracy to make and use materially false statements and documents; sell misbranded meat; and commit wire fraud.

Their father William Aossey, 73, founder of Midamar, was charged with 19 similar counts last month. His trial was just reset to March 9.

According to the indictment on the sons, each is also charged with three counts of making false statements on export applications; 44 counts of wire fraud; 44 counts of money laundering; and one count of conspiring to commit money laundering.

The indictment also contains two forfeiture allegations, seeking proceeds and property involved in certain offenses.

Jalel Aossey wasn’t available for comment Friday afternoon. He did say in a previous interview regarding his father’s charges last month that they were “regulatory infractions” that had been corrected. He said he and his brother supported their father and he didn’t understand why this “mislabeling issue” turned into a criminal investigation.

Jalel Aossey pointed out last month that money was seized from the company accounts in 2012 by federal authorities and then were returned with no wrongdoing found.

If convicted, the conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years in prison, each count of making a false statement on an export application is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Each count of wire fraud, money laundering, including the money laundering conspiracy, is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. A fine of up to $250,000 may also be imposed on each count, along with a term of supervised release following prison time.

Iowa: First Muslim to join Peace Corps charged in “halal” export scheme

The entire halal industry, like sharia finance, is a corrupt and lucrative modern-day industry. via Midamar founder charged in “Halal” beef export scheme – TheGazette.

A 73-year-old Cedar Rapids businessman was indicted Thursday in federal court on 19 counts involving the sale of misbranded “Halal” beef products and falsifying export documents and certificates.

William B. Aossey, Jr., owner and founder of Midamar Corp. and registered agent of Islamic Services of America, both operated from 1105 60th Ave. SW, is charged with one count of conspiracy to make false statements, sell misbranded meat, and commit mail and wire fraud; seven counts of making or causing false statements to be made on export applications; seven counts of wire fraud; three counts of money laundering; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

His initial appearance and arraignment is set Oct. 30 in U.S. District Court.

According to the indictment, Midamar sells and distributes food products throughout the world and markets its products as meeting the strictest Halal beef slaughtering standards. Islamic Services of America certifies food products as Halal for customers throughout the world.

Malaysia and Indonesia restrict the import of Halal beef to products that had been certified by a specifically approved certifying entity, according to the indictment. Indonesia and Malaysia also restricted the import of Halal products since May 2008 to those products that have been slaughtered at a facility approved by each country. Islamic Services of America is one of the few organizations approved by Malaysia and Indonesia to certify Halal beef for import into those countries.

An exporter of these products is required to truthfully and accurately complete specific forms which account for all the products contained in the shipment and certify the products meet the import requirements of the importing country, according to the indictment.

According to the indictment, Aossey conspired and agreed with others known to the grand jury to commit violations of law within the jurisdiction of Department of Agriculture by covering up material facts by a scheme, make false and fraudulent statements, to make and use false documents, sell misbranded products and make false statements on export certificates.

Aossey and others are accused of generating a variety of fabricated certificates and writings, including export documents, that contained falsified information concerning the source and nature of the beef products, according to the indictment. The false certificates and writings were created to show the shipments complied with import requirements of the countries where the beef was shipped.

According to the indictment, customer orders were taken by Midamar for the sale and export of Halal beef products to customers in Malaysia and Indonesia. Midamar placed orders by phone or email with a slaughter and production facility in Windom, Minn., which wasn’t certified by the two countries for export. The Windom facility shipped beef products to Midamar to fulfill orders placed with the Windom facility by Midamar.

The beef slaughtered and produced by the Windom facility and shipped to Midamar was marked with a USDA establishment number and those labels were removed by Midamar employees and replaced with a Midamar USDA establishment number.

The indictment also includes specific payments wired to Midamar’s bank accounts for the transactions of the products and lists USDA export certificates. Each is “alleged to constitute a separate overt act.”

The indictment also contains two forfeiture allegations for proceeds and property involved in some of the offenses. The property includes a money judgment of $134,080.

If Aossey is convicted on all counts, the conspiracy charge penalty is up to five years in prison, each count of making a false statement on an export application is up to three years in prison, each count of wire fraud is up to 20 years in prison and each count of money laundering, including the money laundering conspiracy, is up to 20 years in prison.

He also would face a fine up to $250,000 that could be imposed on each count, along with a term of supervised release.


Aossey’s bio claims he was the “first Muslim-American to join the Peace Corps”. More on the halal fraud, via Understanding Halal Certification Schemes:

Islamic organizations have estimated the value of the global halal certification market at USD 2.3 trillion in 2013, growing by 20% per year. No other religious group has imposed a similar tax-like scheme on the general public.

* Nowhere in Islamic scripture does it say Muslims should eat only halal-certified food. Most observant Muslims know perfectly well that nearly all our food is by default halal:

Koran Sura 2:173 (Al-Baqarah) reads: “He hath forbidden you only carrion, and blood, and swine flesh, and that which hath been immolated to any other than God. But he who is driven by necessity, neither craving nor transgressing, it is no sin for him. Lo! God is Forgiving, Merciful.”

Koran Sura 5.5 (Al Ma’idah) prescribes: “The food of the People of the Book (that is Jewish and Christian people) is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them.”

And from the hadith narrated by Aisha (Bukhari Volume 3, Book 34, Number 273) Muslims know: “Some people said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Meat is brought to us by some people and we are not sure whether the name of Allah has been mentioned on it or not.” Allah’s Apostle said, “Mention the name of Allah and eat it.”

Grand Mufti Dr Mustafa Ceric has suggested at an international conference in 2010, that Islam can conquer the world through the Halal (certification) movement.

Iowa: Muslim fugitive sought by federal law enforcement

via Fugitives being sought by federal law enforcement | KIMT 3.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Federal authorities are asking for the public’s help in tracking down two fugitives.

33-year-old Mohammad Al Sharairei and 35-year-old Melissa Al Sharairei, also known as Melissa Schermerhorn, are charged with maintaining a premises for the distribution of controlled substance analogues, money laundering and conducting an illegal gambling business. According to court documents, the premises in question was the Puff N Stuff II store in Cedar Rapids. They were indicted in June 2014.

After officially expressing an intent to plead guilty, the married couple failed to appear for federal court in Cedar Rapids on October 20.  Federal warrants have now been issued for their arrest.

The Al Sharaireis were last known to live in Pueblo, Colorado.  Anyone with any information on their whereabouts is asked to call the United States Marshals Service at (319) 362-4411.

 More: Mohammad and Melissa Al Sharairei set to plead guilty

The couple is accused of submitting a cashier’s check for $96,186 to Midland Escrow, property derived from a specified unlawful activity — distribution of controlled substance analogues or synthetic drugs on May 30, 2013, according to the information filed Friday in U.S. District Court.

In the other count, the couple is accused of conducting, financing, managing and owning all or part of an illegal gambling business from Feb. 5 through September 2013, which involved video slot-type machines that are a violation of state law, according to the information. The business involved five or more people who conducted, financed, managed, supervised, directed and owned all or part of the gambling operation.

There is also a forfeiture allegation for any property derived from and any proceeds obtained from operating the Puff N Stuff, according to the information. The property to be forfeited includes a money judgment of $425,000 and any proceeds or property from the couple’s business.

The Al Sharaireis previously lost four properties, one house in Cedar Rapids and three houses in Des Moines, two months ago in a default civil judgment. The civil forfeiture claimed the purchase of the real properties represent property traceable to the sale of controlled substance analogues, represent the proceeds of the sale of controlled substance analogues, facilitate the sale of controlled substance analogues and represents property involved in money laundering.

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