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December 12, 2016Cedar Rapids, IAUnited StatesContraband, Firearms, Ammunition and Explosives, Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit

Last of 3 defendants sentenced in Iowa to more than 8 years in federal prison for smuggling guns to Lebanon

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The last of three defendants in a family-run scheme to illegally smuggle guns to Lebanon was sentenced in federal court Monday to more than eight years in federal prison.

This sentence resulted from an extensive investigation by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the FBI, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

The following agencies also provided significant assistance with this investigation:   U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, the U.S. Marshals Service; and Iowa state law enforcement agencies, including: Iowa State Patrol, the Division of Narcotics Enforcement, Division of Criminal Investigation, the Bureau of Investigation and Identity Protection, the Department of Inspections and Appeals; the Iowa sheriffs’ departments of Fayette, Iowa and Linn counties; and the police departments of the following Iowa cities: Vinton, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha; and the University of Iowa Police Department.

Bassem Afif Herz, 31, of Cedar Rapids, was sentenced to 97 months in prison following his previous guilty plea to various charges related to a scheme to illegally export hundreds of firearms to Lebanon.

Herz had pleaded guilty to the following charges:

  • one count of conspiring to deal in firearms without a license and to illegally shipping firearms in interstate and foreign commerce;
  • one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; and
  • one count of violating the Arms Export Control Act.

In sentencing Herz, the court found aggravating factors in this case included the defendant’s false testimony that police officers beat him on the day of his arrest; he also falsely claimed that police officers threw his infant son to the floor. The court also noted the large number of guns involved in the schemes, the fact that military-style assault rifles were involved, and that some of the guns were shipped to and sold in southern Lebanon, in an area controlled by Hezbollah, a designated terrorist organization.

Ali Afif Al Herz, the brother of Bassem Afif Herz, was previously sentenced to serve 342 months’ imprisonment. Adam Al Herz, the son of Ali Afif Al Herz, was sentenced to serve 240 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release.

The defendant and his relatives were charged following an investigation triggered in early 2014 by a report from a firearms dealer concerning suspicious firearms transactions conducted by the group.

The initial investigation led to the March 2015 seizure of 53 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition concealed inside Bobcat skid loaders packed inside a shipping container at the Norfolk, Virginia, seaport. The container was destined for Lebanon.

Subsequent investigation led to the May 2015 seizure of a second shipping container in Cedar Rapids, which was also destined for Lebanon. Ninety-nine guns and thousands more rounds of ammunition were found concealed inside Bobcat skid loaders packed inside the second container. Further investigation disclosed the group had previously sent two similar shipments to Lebanon in March and August 2014. Each of these containers had been loaded and shipped from Midamar Corporation in Cedar Rapids.

Herz’s prison sentence will be followed by a three-year term of supervised release; he was also ordered to forfeit $48,575 as proceeds of his criminal activity.

Updated: 01/03/2017