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Contraband
06/27/2014

2 charged with conspiring to smuggle weapons to the Middle East

TAMPA, Fla. — Two men have been charged for their role in a scheme to smuggle firearms from the United States to the Middle East. This case is being investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Tampa.

If convicted, Mahmoud Abdel-Ghani Mohammad Assaf, 45, of Jordan, and Yasser Ahmad Obeid, 19, of Lebanon, face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment on each firearms and export violation charge, and five years imprisonment for the conspiracy offenses.

"Seizing illicit weapons and arresting those who attempt to illegally smuggle weaponry is an HSI priority," said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge for HSI Tampa.

According to the complaint, Assaf, a Jordanian national in the United States on a visitor's visa, and Obeid, a citizen of Lebanon and legal permanent resident residing in St. Petersburg, Florida, are part of a network of individuals involved in smuggling firearms from the United States to the Middle East. The complaint alleges that the firearms were concealed in vehicles purchased at used car auctions in the Central Florida area and then exported to countries located in Africa and the Middle East.

After being arrested June 25, Assaf and Obeid made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III. Assaf was detained pending further proceedings. Obeid's bond hearing is scheduled for Friday.