Four Persons Charged with Conspiracy to Unlawfully Ship Firearms to Lebanon
Ali Afif Al Herz, age 50, Bassem Herz, age 30, Sarah Zeaiter, age 24, and Adam Ben Ali Al Herz, age 22, all from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, have each been charged with conspiracy to provide a container or package containing firearms and ammunition to a common carrier without notice to the shipper. The charges are contained in a Complaint unsealed today in United States District Court in Cedar Rapids.
The Affidavit supporting the Complaint alleges that between about August 2014 and May 11, 2015, three containers originating from Cedar Rapids were loaded with Bobcat skid loaders, clothing, and various other items with an intended destination of Beirut, Lebanon. The first container was not interdicted. On about March 26, 2015, the second container was interdicted at the outbound port in Norfolk, Virginia, where it was found to contain 53 firearms and more than 6800 rounds of ammunition secreted in three Bobcat skid loaders inside the container. On May 8, 2015, a third container, loaded and shipped from a Cedar Rapids business, was searched and found to contain an additional 99 firearms and over 9500 rounds of ammunition. The firearms and ammunition were again secreted within two Bobcat skid loaders in the container.
The Affidavit alleges that of the 152 firearms seized from the two shipping containers, approximately 66 of the firearms are known to have been purchased by the four individuals in Cedar Rapids and surrounding areas. As of the time filing the Complaint, whereabouts of at least 47 guns known to have been purchased by the group were unknown.
If convicted on all charges, each individual faces a possible maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, a $100 in special assessment, and three years of supervised release following any imprisonment.
All four individuals appeared today in federal court in Cedar Rapids and were held without bond. Ali Afif Al Herz’ next appearance will be a detention hearing set for May 15, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. Bassem Herz is being held in custody by the U.S. Marshals pending further proceedings. Sarah Zeaiter Herz’ next appearance will be a detention hearing set for May 15, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. Adam Ben Ali Al Herz’ next appearance will be a detention hearing set for May 15, 2015 at 1:00 p.m.
As with any criminal case, a charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Richard Murphy and was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The following agencies assisted with the execution of search and arrest warrants today: Bureau of Investigation and Identity Protection, Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security Investigations, United States Marshals Service, Division of Narcotics Enforcement, Department, Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Linn County Sheriff’s Office, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Iowa County Sheriff’s Office, Cedar Rapids Police Department, Hiawatha Police Department, Marion Police Department, Vinton Police Department,, Johnson County Drug Task Force, and the Iowa State Patrol.
Anyone with information concerning this matter is requested to contact Homeland Security Investigations at 319-286-4680.