United States Files Forfeiture Action to Recover Cryptocurrency Traceable to Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme
BOSTON – The United States Attorney’s Office filed a civil forfeiture action against a Waltham home that was the former residence and business location of a couple previously indicted in connection with a scheme to smuggle goods out of the United States and to supply services to Syria. The United States also seized the U.S. website of the Syrian-based company Electronic Katranji Trading (“EKT”), ekt2.com, on probable cause that it was used to facilitate the illegal export of merchandise from the United States.
The Waltham home, located at 10 Juniper Hill Road, is the former residence of Anni Beurklian, a/k/a Anni Ajaka (“Beurklian”), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Lebanon and her husband, Antoine Ajaka, a/k/a Tony Ajaka (“Ajaka”), a lawful permanent resident from Lebanon. The couple operated Top Tech US Inc. (“Top Tech”), a U.S. company, from the Waltham home. Beurklian, Ajaka and Top Tech were indicted in March 2018 on conspiracy to violate U.S. export laws and regulations, conspiracy to defraud the United States, smuggling U.S. goods out of the United States, illegally providing services to persons located in Syria, mail fraud, conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.
While engaged in plea negotiations with the U.S. government, Beurklian and Ajaka fled the United States in 2018 to avoid prosecution, and are believed to be in Syria or Lebanon.
As alleged in the complaint, from 2014 and continuing until the couple fled the United States, Beurklian and Ajaka operated an export business, Top Tech, from the Waltham home. The couple used the home to procure goods, including electronics, computer equipment and electrical switches, from U.S. companies and exported those goods to various countries, including Lebanon, Egypt and China, in violation of U.S. law.
One of their customers was Amir Katranji (“Kantranji”), a citizen of Syria who operates and manages EKT. In 2007, EKT and its founder, Mohammad Katranji, Amir Katranji’s father, were added to the Department of Commerce’s Entity List because the U.S. government had determined that EKT and Mohammad Katranji were involved in activities related to the acquisition, attempted acquisition, and/or development of improvised explosive devices, which were being used against U.S. and Coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ajaka and Beurklian allegedly did business with Katranji and supplied U.S. origin goods to EKT and its subsidiary companies using Top Tech and the Waltham home. Ajaka and Beurklian were aware that Katranji operated a business in Syria and that they were providing services to Katranji and his Syrian company, EKT. It is alleged that pursuant to instructions Katranji provided, Beurklian would, contrary to law, export electronics, computer equipment and electrical switches from the Waltham home, misidentifying the purchaser or end user and falsely understating the value of the goods, thus avoiding the triggering of reporting and/or licensing obligations for exports under U.S. customs laws.
In a related action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has obtained a seizure warrant for the website domain, ekt2.com, and related email domain @ekt2.com. EKT used the domain to facilitate the shipment of goods in violation of U.S. export laws. A banner on the website now informs the public that the website has been seized by ICE – Homeland Security Investigations.
Katranji, who operates and manages EKT, is also named as a defendant in the criminal indictment with Ajaka and Beurklian.
The civil forfeiture action and website seizure are pursuant to Title 19 of the United States Code, which provides that property used to facilitate the exporting or sending of merchandise from the United States contrary to law shall be seized and forfeited to the United States.
In July of 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated EKT, Katranji, Beurklian and Ajaka as Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators pursuant to Executive Order 13382. Accordingly, it is illegal for any U.S. person to do business with them. These designations and sanctions were imposed against EKT, Katranji, Beurklian, and Ajaka in coordination with similar actions by the French government based upon evidence that EKT was involved in the development of chemical weapons used by the Syrian Government.
United States Attorney Andrew Lelling; Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Homeland Security Investigation, Boston Field Office; and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division made the announcement today. The criminal case was investigated by HSI, FBI, Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement, Boston Field Office and Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Northeast Field Office. The civil forfeiture action and seizure warrant are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol E. Head of Lelling’s Asset Recovery Unit. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney B. Stephanie Siegmann, Chief of Lelling’s National Security Unit.
The details contained in the civil forfeiture complaint are allegations.