Thriteen Members of International Khat Trafficking Ring Convicted
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Thirteen individuals have been convicted for their roles in an international conspiracy trafficking more than 10 million grams of khat throughout the United States.
Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and John P. Torres, Special Agent in Charge for ICE’s, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Washington, D.C.; and Daniel Cortez, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by United States District Judge T. S. Ellis III.
“This ring illegally imported millions of grams of fresh, potent khat into the United States and then laundered the khat proceeds to hide and promote their illegal activity,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “These convictions should serve as a warning to others who knowingly bring illegal narcotics into the United States and distribute them for profit.”
“This case exemplifies that those who attempt to smuggle controlled substances and other contraband into and out of our country will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” said ICE HSI Special Agent in Charge in Washington John P. Torres. “HSI thanks our domestic and international law enforcement partners for their significant cooperation in dismantling this smuggling and money laundering organization.”
“This verdict is the result of several law enforcement agencies pooling their resources and working together towards a common goal; to protect citizens from the perils of illegal and dangerous drugs,” said Postal Inspector in Charge Cortez. “I would like to thank the Inspectors as well as the Special Agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol who worked tirelessly to achieve this verdict. I greatly appreciate their dedication of continuing to ensure the safety of the U.S. Mail.”
Indicted on June 16, 2011, the following defendants were convicted on May 17, 2012, of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cathinone, a Schedule I controlled substance found in khat: Suado Mohamed Ali, 45, of Burke, Va.; Hibo Musse Samantar, 34, of Annandale, Va.; Ahmed Ali Hassan, 31, of Alexandria, Va.; Osman Yusuf, 56, of Clifton, Va., Abdirahman Abshir Jibril, 45, of Fairfax, Va.; Harun Salhan, 47, of Wheaton, Md.; Ismail Mohamud Abdi, 50, of Alexandria, Va.; Abdi Muhumed, 43, of Parkville, Md.; Lutf Mohamed Albukhaiti, 36, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Nagi Mansor Sea Alashmali, 50, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Khaled Ahmed Isa, 36, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Abdi Omar Abdi, 56, of Columbus, Ohio; and Abokor Gurreh, 55, of Columbus, Ohio.
Nine defendants, Suado Mohamed Ali; Osman Yusuf; Abdirahman Abshir Jibril; Ismail Mohamud Abdi; Abdi Muhumed; Lutf Albukhaiti; Khaled Ahmed Isa; Abdi Omar Abdi; and Abokor Gurreh were convicted of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of khat sales to khat suppliers in the United Kingdom and Africa. Harun Salhan was acquitted on the money laundering conspiracy charge.
The defendants will be sentenced on August 10 and August 17, 2012. Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
According to court records and evidence at trial, the defendants joined a conspiracy that smuggled khat into the U.S. from Europe, using human couriers and the U.S. Postal Service and delivery companies. The conspiracy would then distribute the khat throughout the eastern United States, including Ohio, New York, and the Washington, D.C.-metro area. The conspirators would transmit proceeds from their drug sales to others in England, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda, through money service businesses such as Dahabshiil, Inc. Osman Yusuf, a former branch manager at a Dahabshiil branch in Falls Church, Va., and Abdirahman Abshir Jibril, an employee at that Dahabshiil branch, assisted the leader of the khat trafficking conspiracy, Yonis Muhudin Ishak, in wiring his drug proceeds overseas.
Fresh khat leaves contain the drug cathinone, an addictive stimulant with effects similar to but less intense than that of methamphetamine or cocaine. Over time, the cathinone in khat leaves degrades, and the evidence at trial showed that the conspiracy placed priority on ensuring the khat smuggled into the United States was fresh. The conspiracy used human couriers, who were paid about $1,000 per trip to travel to England and return with khat smuggled in their passenger luggage. Members of the conspiracy would use rented vehicles to provide couriers with transportation to and from the airport and designate locations throughout the United States for couriers to retrieve or ship khat to conspirators in other parts of the country. Additionally, members of the conspiracy would receive Express Mail packages containing khat from khat suppliers in the United Kingdom. The shipping labels on these packages falsely reflected their contents as “baby clothes,” “picture frames,” and other items.
This case was investigated by ICE HSI with support from U.S. Postal Inspection Service, FBI, DEA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Marshals Service as well as local law enforcement in Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and New York including Arlington County Police Department, Fairfax County Police Department, Alexandria Police Department, Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority and local law enforcement in Ohio including Columbus Police Department, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and Gahanna Police Department, Baltimore County Police, Montgomery County Police and New York City Police Department. This case was prosecuted as part of OCDETF Operation Buried Treasure.
Assistant United States Attorney Mary K. Daly and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Michael J. Frank, Elizabeth L.D. Cannon and Brian K. Fitzpatrick are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.uspci.uscourts.gov.