Foreign National Convicted in Multi-Million-Dollar, Multi-State Criminal Operation
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 04, 2013|
HOUSTON—Sameh Khaled Danhach, also known by many other aliases, has been convicted of all six counts as related to the interstate transportation of stolen goods and obstruction of justice, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The jury returned its verdicts after just an hour of deliberation following a five-day trial.
Danhach, who resides in Houston, is a legal permanent resident of the United States from Lebanon. The evidence demonstrated he was a high-ranking fence involved in a multi-million-dollar, multi-state criminal enterprise where he received stolen over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, baby formula, health and beauty supplies, and shampoo for later re-packaging and shipping. This criminal enterprise, among other things, engaged in using “boosters,” primarily undocumented Central Americans, to steal over-the-counter medication and baby formula. A booster is a criminal who steals goods and merchandise not for personal use but for re-sale to a “fence” for a fraction of its retail value. A fence is a person who receives stolen goods and merchandise from boosters and others. The fence then re-sells the stolen goods and merchandise to third parties for a profit.
The scope of this criminal enterprise ranged from April 2008 to February 2012.
Danhach owned and operated Houston-located SKD Trading Inc. and Lifetime Wholesale Inc., both shell companies operated under several other names used to facilitate their illegal activity. He hired undocumented aliens from Central and South America to travel throughout the United States to steal the OTC, beauty products, and baby formula from major retail chain stores such as Target, Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens. He facilitated this interstate travel by renting cars for the boosters and by paying the boosters in cash for the stolen merchandise.
To avoid detection by law enforcement, the undocumented aliens would ship the stolen merchandise to Danhach using fraudulent FedEx accounts in his shell company names. As a result of the fraudulent accounts, FedEx suffered a loss of $540,000. A representative from FedEx testified at trial about the sophistication of Danhach’s scheme stating that Danhach and others set up approximately 29 accounts using various names, company names, and addresses without paying for any of the shipments.
Once the stolen merchandise arrived at Danhach’s Houston warehouse, he had his “employees” remove any retail store identifying labels and security features. Danhach would then have the stolen products repackaged and then re-sold to wholesalers across the nation.
A search warrant was executed on March 1, 2012, at Danhach’s Houston warehouse, at which time agents seized criminal ledgers maintained by Danhach. The ledgers specifically showed the stolen merchandise coming into the warehouse, the retail labels on the stolen merchandise being removed, and the stolen merchandise being repackaged and shipped back out of the warehouse. At the time of the search, Danhach instructed his co-conspirator to hide a video recording from the warehouse’s security cameras in the warehouse’s ceiling.
Several cooperating witnesses testified on behalf of the United States, including one of his boosters, who admitted that between August 2011 and February 2012, he traveled around the Houston area and the state in cars rented by Danhach, stealing OTC medication and beauty supplies from Walmarts. In a six-month-period, the witness admitted he was responsible for stealing more than $230,000 worth of merchandise from Walmart.
United States District Court Judge Sim Lake, who presided over the trial has set sentencing for April 25, 2013. Danhach faces up to five years for the one count of conspiracy to transport stolen merchandise in interstate commerce as well as up to 10 years in as to each of the three convictions for transporting stolen merchandise. Danhach further faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for each of the two obstruction of justice counts. All charges also include a possible $250,000 fine. Danhach could also face the loss of his legal permanent residence status and deportation from the United States.
He will remain in custody pending his sentencing hearing.
This matter was investigated by the FBI, Houston Police Department-Major Offenders Division, and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, with the cooperation of CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Mead Johnson, and Abbott Nutrition. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kebharu Smith, Joe Magliolo and Albert Ratliff.