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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 27, 2016

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Extradition Of International Arms Traffickers For Their Involvment In Conspiracy To Import Cocaine Into The United States

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Mark Hamlet, Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced today the extradition of MEMET GEZER, a/k/a “Muhammad Altrky,” a/k/a “Wissam Abdel Rahman Younes,” a/k/a “Mohamed Subhe Al Gazar” (“GEZER”) and SABER KARIMCH, a/k/a “Abu Farouk” (“KARIMCH”), international arms traffickers charged with conspiring to sell large quantities of military-grade weaponry to individuals GEZER and KARIMCH believed were representatives of a Mexican drug trafficking organization (the “DTO”).  GEZER and KARIMCH, were arrested by Montenegrin authorities on April 14, 2016, extradited from Montenegro today, and will be arraigned in front of United States Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox later today.  The case is assigned to Chief United States District Judge Colleen McMahon.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated:  “Highlighting the global nature and impact of the drug trade, two men from the Middle East working with what they believed to be members of a Mexican drug trafficking organization, allegedly agreed to provide military-grade weapons, including machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, to help protect cocaine shipments headed for the United States.  Thanks to the DEA’s relentless efforts, these alleged international arms traffickers are now on American soil facing criminal charges.”

Special Agent in Charge Mark Hamlet stated:  “This global conspiracy uncovered by DEA and its partners further highlights the dangerous and potentially deadly connection between arms dealers and drug trafficking networks worldwide.  DEA’s vast global presence allows us to pursue some of the world’s most dangerous criminals so they may face justice for their crimes in the United States.”

According to the Indictment and Complaints[1], which were unsealed in October 2016:

Between September 2015 and March 2016, GEZER and KARIMCH participated in a series of in-person meetings and telephone calls with individuals whom GEZER and KARIMCH understood to be representatives of a Mexican drug trafficking organization (the “DTO”).  However, those individuals were, in fact, two DEA confidential sources (the “CSes”).  During those meetings and telephone calls, which were recorded, GEZER and KARIMCH agreed to supply the DTO with high-powered weapons, including machine guns, grenades, and rocket-propelled grenades (“RPGs”), with the express understanding that those weapons would be used to protect large cocaine shipments as they traveled from and through Mexico for distribution in the United States. 

In early 2016, one of the CSes met with GEZER in a foreign country.  GEZER escorted the CS to a gated compound and showed the CS bulk quantities of weapons, including RPGs, grenades, sniper rifles, and machine guns.  In February 2016, GEZER sent the CS videos of some of the weapons that GEZER had shown the CS in the gated compound to confirm that GEZER was ready to proceed with the weapons deal. 

GEZER additionally offered to sell the CSes large sums of United States currency for a fraction of the currency’s face value, with the understanding that the money would help the CSes launder drug money for the DTO.  In early February 2016, GEZER showed one of the CSes what appeared to be approximately $2 million in U.S. currency, which GEZER indicated was a small fraction of what GEZER could make available to the CSes.

* * *

GEZER, 49, a citizen of Turkey, and KARIMCH, 50, a citizen of Syria, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison; two counts of attempting to import cocaine into the United States, each carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison; and one count of conspiracy to aid and abet the possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking offenses, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  In addition, GEZER is charged with conspiracy to launder money, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative efforts of the DEA’s Special Operations Division, the DEA’s Rome Country Office, and the Montenegrin National Police.  The defendants’ arrests and subsequent extradition are also the result of the close cooperative efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrea Surratt and Ilan Graff are in charge of the prosecution.

The allegations contained in the Complaints and Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaints and Indictment, and the description of the Complaints and Indictment set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation. 

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
16-279
Updated October 27, 2016