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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Indiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Syrian national indicted on federal firearms charges

Defendant charged with unlawfully possessing firearms and making false statements

in connection with the attempted purchase of firearms from a local sporting goods store

 PRESS RELEASE

Indianapolis-United States Attorney Josh Minkler announced today that a Syrian national faces federal charges for unlawfully purchasing and possessing firearms, as well as lying on federal forms while attempting to purchase another firearm. Majd Al Helwani, 24, Fishers, was indicted today and charged with four felony counts related to those activities.

“Aggressively prosecuting individuals who are not lawfully permitted to purchase or possess firearms is a cornerstone of a safe society,” said Minkler. “We are grateful to the collaborative partners who brought this to our attention and encourage all citizens to adhere to the campaign: If you see something, say something.”

This case stems from an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In December of 2017, law enforcement officials received information from a concerned citizen that Al Helwani was in possession of at least one firearm, an AR-15 style, .223 caliber rifle. After HSI agents determined that Al Helwani had been admitted into the United States as a non-immigrant tourist, and was thereafter prohibited from possessing firearms, authorities obtained a search warrant for his residence. When agents arrived at his home to execute the warrant, Al Helwani came to the door armed with a loaded 9-millimeter handgun. A Sabal Arms, .223 caliber rifle was also recovered from the home.

During the course of the subsequent federal investigation, HSI agents learned that Al Helwani had attempted to purchase a shotgun from an Indianapolis area sporting goods store in October of 2016. As alleged in today’s indictment, Al Helwani misrepresented his immigration status during the course of that transaction by indicating he had not been admitted into the United States as a non-immigrant tourist.

“These charges send a message to those who lie in order to obtain firearms,” said Special Agent in Charge James M. Gibbons, Chicago HSI. “HSI is committed to working with our enforcement partners to combat those who threaten national security.”

According to Assistant United States Attorney Matthew J. Rinka who is prosecuting this case for the government, Al Helwani faces a maximum of ten years in prison if convicted.

An indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent until proved otherwise in federal court.

In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution demonstrates the Office’s firm commitment to prosecuting those who illegally possess firearms. United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan 1.8, 2.9.

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Updated July 18, 2018