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Financial Crimes
11/15/2018

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7 charged with laundering drug trafficking proceeds between US, South America

7 charged with laundering drug trafficking proceeds between US, South America

NEW YORK — Owners and employees of multiple Long Island and Miami import-export businesses were arrested Thursday following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York’s Long Island Office with Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, New York (IRS-CI). Enayatullah Khwaja, also known as “Nat,” Abdulrahman Khwaja, Rani Rahimi, Shikeba Rhamatzada, Roberto Saenz, Maynor Melendez-Mendoza and Naseem Bokhari, also known as “Sammy,” are being charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business, failure to file currency transaction reports, failure to file IRS forms 8300, structuring monetary deposits and interstate and foreign travel and transportation in aid of a racketeering enterprises.

The defendants Enayatullah Khwaja, Abdulrahman Khwaja, Rahimi and Rhamatzada will be arraigned at the Federal District Court in Central Islip, NY and defendants Saenz, Melendez-Mendoza and Bokhari, were arrested in Florida and will be brought to the duty Magistrate at the Federal District Court in Miami, Florida, before being transferred to the Eastern District of New York.

“Those arrested today, allegedly employed an international money laundering scheme relying on the complexities of global trade and the use of their businesses here in New York and in Florida, to launder millions of dollars for transnational drug traffickers and other bad actors,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge for HSI New York. “This investigation exemplifies HSI’s efforts in securing the integrity of our country’s trade and financial systems, and the importance of law enforcement partnerships here and abroad.”

“Special Agents of IRS-CI are experts in identifying and uncovering criminal violations with a financial aspect whether committed at home or abroad as alleged in the indictment,” stated IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge James D. Robnett.

“As alleged in the indictment and court filings, today’s charges illustrate that those involved in aiding the international drug trade and other criminals by moving millions of dollars in criminal proceeds cannot escape punishment,” stated United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), Richard P. Donoghue. “This Office and our law enforcement partners will continue to work together to ensure that individuals who attempt to hide their criminal involvement in international crime will be held accountable.”

As alleged in the indictment and other court documents, Import-Export businesses operated by the defendants on Long Island and in Miami were used to launder millions of dollars in proceeds of illegal drug trafficking and other criminal activity between the United States and South America. The defendants allegedly took in bulk cash deliveries from drug dealers and other criminals and used the Import-Export businesses to disguise the transfer of money through the use of international mobile phone sales. The government’s investigation included extensive court-ordered wiretaps of the defendants, as well as multiple instances where undercover federal agents posing as drug dealers were directed to deliver cash to the defendants in order to move the cash to drug dealers in South America.

Special thanks to HSI, Miami, Suffolk County Police Department, Customs & Border Protection, Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York, RAC Long Island, Internal Revenue Service - CID, New York, Long Island, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, New York, U.S. Nassau County Police Department, New York City Police Department for their assistance in this investigation.

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. The government’s case is being handled by the EDNY’s Long Island Criminal Division.

The Defendants

NameAgeLocation
ENAYATULLAH KHWAJA, also known as “Nat,”45Farmingdale, N.Y.
ABDULRAHMAN KHWAJA62Syosset, N.Y.
RANA RAHIMI48Farmingdale, N.Y.
SHIKEBA RHAMATZADA45Farmingdale, N.Y.
ROBERTO SAENZ36Miami, Florida
MAYNOR MELENDEZ-MENDOZA33Miami, Florida
NASEEM BOKHARI, also known as “Sammy”59Miami, Florida

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-607 (JFB)

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 11/16/2018