Multi-Million-Dollar Interstate Transportation of Stolen Goods Operation Sends Leader to Federal Prison
HOUSTON—Sameh Khaled Danhach, also known by many aliases, has been ordered to prison for nearly 13 years following his conviction on six counts related to the interstate transportation of stolen goods and obstruction of justice, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. A federal jury sitting in Houston convicted Danhach March 4, 2013, after just an hour of deliberation following a five-day trial.
Today, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake, who presided over the trial, handed Danhach a total sentence of 151 months in federal prison and further ordered him to pay nearly $540,000 in restitution. Danhach resides in Houston but is a legal permanent resident of the U.S. from Lebanon. He is expected to face deportation proceedings following his release from prison.
Five others are charged in the case. Two of those have pleaded guilty, while three remain as fugitives and warrants remain outstanding for their arrests.
At trial, evidence demonstrated Danhach 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 OTC 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, which documented the extent of Danhach’s criminal enterprise. Specifically, the records showed that between August 2011 through January 2012, Danhach was responsible for nearly $3 million in sales of stolen OTC items. At the time of the search, Danhach instructed a co-conspirator to hide a video recording from the warehouse’s security cameras in the warehouse’s ceiling. The video specifically showed several days worth of stolen merchandise being delivered to the warehouse and undocumented aliens removing the retailers’ labels and then repackaging and shipping the OTC items on pallets.
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.
At the sentencing hearing today, the court also considered Danhach’s role in the receipt of 38 Parmigiani watches taken during a June 2010 robbery of travelling Swiss jewelers. The government presented evidence that he later attempted to sell the watches at a fraction of their value to a local jewelry store, at which time he was arrested. At least two of the watches were taken to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by Danhach’s brother-in-law a year after the robbery. Allegedly, Danhach’s brother-in-law took the watches, taken during the robbery, to a jewelry store where he attempted to get cases for the watches. Parmigiani officials in Switzerland became aware of this attempted transaction and notified the FBI that the two watches were presented to the UAE jewelry store representatives.
Danhach will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
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 and Joe Magliolo.