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Contraband
05/19/2011

Leader, members of alleged international khat trafficking ring arrested

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Eighteen individuals have been arrested for their alleged roles in an international conspiracy trafficking more than 4.4 million grams of khat throughout the United States. All 18 were taken into custody yesterday, including 10 in Northern Virginia, two in Maryland, four in New York, and two in Ohio following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Washington, D.C.,

According to court documents, Yonis Muhudin Ishak, a/k/a "Yunis Sheikal" and "Shak," a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia living in Arlington, Va., is the leader of a conspiracy that allegedly uses human couriers to transport khat into the United States from England, Canada, and Holland. In addition, the alleged conspirators sent packages of khat to the United States via the U.S. Postal Service and delivery companies. The conspiracy would then allegedly distribute the khat, via couriers and the postal system, to at least 15 states, including California, Washington, Tennessee, New York, and the Washington, D.C.-metro area. The conspirators allegedly transmit proceeds from their drug sales to others in England, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.

Fresh khat leaves contain the drug cathinone, an addictive stimulant with effects similar to but less intense than that of methamphetamine or cocaine. Over time, the cathinone in khat leaves degrades, and the court documents allege that Ishak placed priority on ensuring the khat smuggled into the United States was fresh. He allegedly used at least 14 couriers, whom he would pay about $1,000 per trip to travel to England and return with khat smuggled in their passenger luggage. Ishak and other conspirators would use rented vehicles to provide couriers with transportation to and from the airport and designate locations throughout the United States for couriers to retrieve or ship khat to conspirators in other parts of the country. At times, Ishak is accused of suggesting that conspirators use their children as couriers to evade detection.

All of those arrested were charged with conspiring to distribute cathinone, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, if convicted.

Others charged as part of the alleged conspiracy include the following:

  • Abdulkadir Isse, a/k/a "Abdul" and "Burane," a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia residing in Springfield, Va., is accused of being Ishak's partner in the khat trafficking organization.
  • Suado Mohammed Ali, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia residing in Burke, Va., is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat.
  • Hassan Hassan, a/k/a "Elay," a legal permanent U.S. resident from Somalia residing in Alexandria, Va., is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat, as well as laundering the proceeds of khat sales.
  • Ahmed Hassan, a/k/a "Dirir," a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia residing in Alexandria, Va., is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat, as well as laundering the proceeds of khat sales.
  • Yonas Beyene, a/k/a "Yonka," a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia residing in Alexandria, Va., is accused of using his position at a vehicle rental agent to assist Ishak in renting vehicles used to transport and distribute khat.
  • Ismail Abdi, a legal permanent U.S. resident from Somalia residing in Alexandria, Va., is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat, as well as storing khat at his residence.
  • Hibo Samantar, a/k/a "Fadumo," a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia residing in Annandale, Va., is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat, as well as laundering the proceeds of khat sales.
  • Osman Yusuf, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia residing in Clifton, Va., is accused of using his position as a branch manager for a money service business to remit proceeds from khat sales to individuals located overseas.
  • Abdirahman Jibril, a legal permanent U.S. resident from Somalia residing in Fairfax, Va., is accused of using his position as an employee at a money service business to remit proceeds from khat sales to individuals located overseas.
  • Adbi Muhumed, a/k/a "Juba," a legal permanent U.S. resident from Somalia residing in Parkville, Md., is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat in Maryland, as well as laundering the proceeds of khat sales.
  • Harun Salhan, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia residing in Wheaton, Md., is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat in Maryland, as well as laundering the proceeds of khat sales.
  • Lutf Mohamed Albukhaiti, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Yemen residing in Brooklyn, N.Y., is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat in New York, as well as laundering the proceeds of khat sales.
  • Nagi Alashmali, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Yemen residing in Brooklyn, N.Y., is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat in New York, as well as laundering the proceeds of khat sales.
  • Moheeb Nasser, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Yemen residing in Brooklyn, N.Y., is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat in New York, as well as laundering the proceeds of khat sales.
  • Khaled Ahmed Isa, a/k/a "Adnan," a naturalized U.S. citizen from Yemen residing in Queens Village, N.Y., is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat in New York, as well as laundering the proceeds of khat sales.
  • Abdi Omar Abdi, a legal permanent U.S. resident from Somalia residing in Columbus, Ohio, is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat in Ohio, as well as transporting khat from New York to Ohio.
  • Abokor Gurreh, a/k/a "Mubarak," Mohamed Farhan," and "Farhan M. Mohamed," a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia residing in Columbus, Ohio, is accused of assisting Ishak in smuggling and distributing khat in Ohio, as well as transporting khat from New York to Ohio.

The ongoing investigation was conducted by ICE HSI with support from FBI, DEA, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Marshals Service as well as local law enforcement in Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and New York including Arlington County Police Department, Fairfax County Police Department, Alexandria Police Department, Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority and local law enforcement in Ohio including Columbus Police Department, Franklin County Sheriff's Department and Gahanna Police Department, Baltimore County Police, Montgomery County Police and New York City Police Department.

As the second largest investigative agency in the federal government, ICE's primary mission is to protect national security and uphold public safety through tracking the illegal movement of people, money and goods within the United States, at our nation's borders, and beyond our borders in collaboration with our international law enforcement partners

For more information, visit www.ice.gov.