Two Ohio Men Plead Guilty To Conspiring To Unlawfully Export Firearms To Lebanon
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN - U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Abdul Majid Saidi, 42, and Walid Mounir Chehade, 38, both of metro Cleveland, Ohio, each pleaded guilty before a U.S. Magistrate Judge pursuant to a plea agreement to one count of conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act. The guilty pleas were accepted by U.S. District Court Judge Gordon J. Quist and both defendants were adjudicated guilty. Saidi and Chehade face a maximum of 5 years of imprisonment, 3 years of supervised released, and a $250,000 fine. The sentencing hearings will be held in February, 2019.
Saidi and Chehade admitted at their plea hearings that they conspired with Gilbert Elian in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area to conceal twenty semiautomatic pistols wrapped in felt and plastic inside automobile engine blocks and transmissions. Many of the firearms were purchased in West Michigan. Those engine blocks and transmission were then placed in a cargo shipping container addressed to a consignee in Beirut, Lebanon. The cargo container shipment was intercepted after a U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection in Virginia. Elian was convicted of the same offense in 2016.
“Abdul Majid Saidi and Walid Mounir Chehade flouted laws designed to control the export of defense articles and international arms trafficking. That conduct warrants the serious consequences they face for obvious reasons,” U.S. Attorney Birge said.
“The illegal proliferation of weapons is controlled by U.S. laws for an important purpose,” said Steve Francis, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio. “Any weapons or firearms obtained by the wrong person or group could harm American interests either domestically or overseas. HSI is committed to bringing to justice any individual or organization willing to circumvent U.S. export laws.”
The case was jointly investigated by HSI Grand Rapids, IRS Criminal Investigations Grand Rapids, ATF Grand Rapids, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Grand Rapids Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay M. West prosecuted the case.