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July 19, 2018Indianapolis, IN, United StatesFirearms, Ammunition and Explosives

Syrian national in Indiana faces federal firearms charges

INDIANAPOLIS — A Syrian national residing in an Indianapolis suburb was charged Thursday with unlawfully possessing a firearm and lying about being a U.S. citizen so he could buy a shotgun from a local sporting goods store.

These charges were announced by U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler, Southern District of Indiana. This case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance from the FBI.

Majd Al Helwani, 24, of Fishers, Indiana, faces four felony counts for unlawfully purchasing and possessing firearms, as well as lying on federal forms while attempting to purchase another firearm.

In December 2017, law enforcement officers received information from a concerned citizen that Al Helwani possessed at least one firearm, an AR-15 style .223-caliber rifle.

After HSI special agents determined that Al Helwani had been admitted into the U.S. as a non-immigrant tourist, and is prohibited from possessing firearms, authorities obtained a search warrant for his residence.  When agents arrived at his home to execute the warrant, Al Helwani came to the door armed with a loaded 9mm handgun. A Sabal Arms .223-caliber rifle was also recovered from the home.

During the subsequent federal investigation, HSI special agents learned that Al Helwani had attempted to purchase a shotgun from an Indianapolis-area sporting goods store in October 2016.

As alleged in Thursday’s indictment, Al Helwani misrepresented his immigration status during that transaction by indicating he had not been admitted into the U.S. as a non-immigrant tourist.

“Aggressively prosecuting individuals who are not lawfully permitted to purchase or possess firearms is a cornerstone of a safe society,” said Minkler. “We are grateful to the collaborative partners who brought this to our attention and encourage all citizens to adhere to the campaign: If you see something, say something.”

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Rinka, Southern District of Indiana, who is prosecuting this case, Al Helwani faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison, if convicted.

An indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt.

All defendants are presumed innocent until proved otherwise in federal court.