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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Iowa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 12, 2016

Final Person Sentenced to More Than 8 Years’ Imprisonment in Scheme to Smuggle Guns to Lebanon

Bassem Afif Herz, age 31, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was sentenced today following his pleas of guilty to various charges related to a scheme to illegally export hundreds of firearms to Lebanon. 

Herz previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to deal in firearms without a license and to illegally ship firearms in interstate and foreign commerce; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; and one count of violating the Arms Export Control Act. 

The defendant was sentenced by Linda R. Reade, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, following three prior hearings at which the Court received evidence concerning the sentencing issues.

Herz was sentenced to serve 97 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by a 3- year term of supervised release.  Herz was ordered to forfeit $48,575 in proceeds of criminal activity.  The forfeiture order was made joint and several with the other defendants in the case.  

In sentencing Herz, the Court found the aggravating factors included the defendant’s false testimony that on the day of his arrest he had been beaten up by police officers who also threw his infant son to the floor.  The court also noted the large number of guns involved in the schemes, the fact that military style assault rifles were involved, and that some of the guns were shipped to and sold in southern Lebanon in an area controlled by Hezbollah. 

Ali Afif Al Herz, the brother of Bassem Afif Herz, was previously sentenced to serve 342 months’ imprisonment.

Adam Al Herz, the son of Ali Afif Al Herz, was sentenced to serve 240 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. 

Defendant and his relatives were charged following an investigation triggered in early 2014 by a report from a firearms dealer concerning suspicious firearms transactions conducted by the group. 

The initial investigation led to the March 2015 seizure of 53 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition concealed inside Bobcat skid loaders packed inside a shipping container at the Norfolk, Virginia seaport.  The container was destined for Lebanon.  Subsequent investigation led to the May 2015 seizure of a second shipping container in Cedar Rapids, which was also destined for Lebanon.  Ninety-nine guns and thousands more rounds of ammunition were found concealed inside Bobcat skid loaders packed inside the second container.  Further investigation disclosed the group had previously sent two similar shipments to Lebanon in March and August 2014.  Each of the containers had been loaded and shipped from Midamar Corporation in Cedar Rapids.

The cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Richard L. Murphy and were investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with assistance from the Diplomatic Security Service, United States Marshals Service, Iowa State Patrol, Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Iowa Bureau of Investigation and Identity Protection, Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Iowa County Sheriff’s Office, Linn County Sheriff’s Office, Vinton Police Department, University of Iowa Police Department, Iowa City Police Department, Cedar Rapids Police Department, Marion Police Department, and Hiawatha Police Department.

Court file information is available at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.  The case file number is 15-CR-00054-LRR.

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Topic(s): 
Firearms Offenses
Component(s): 
Updated December 12, 2016