Man arrested in anti-aircraft missile plot

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 23, 2009 7:58 PM

A scheme to transport stolen cell phones, laptops and video game systems that evolved into a plot to ship machine guns and anti-aircraft missiles to Syria was broken up with the arrest of a central figure in the plan, according to FBI documents released Monday.

Dani Nemr Tarraf, who has residences in Lebanon and Slovakia, was arrested Saturday on charges of conspiracy to possess machine guns and conspiracy to acquire a missile system designed to destroy aircraft.

Federal law enforcement officials declined to discuss whether Tarraf had any connection to terrorist organizations. It was not immediately clear whether Tarraf is ethnically Slovak or Lebanese.

"Keeping missiles, machine guns, and other sensitive U.S. weapons technology from falling into the wrong hands is one of the Justice Department's top priorities," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kriss.

According to an affidavit, Tarraf paid about $20,000 cash to an undercover officer in July as a deposit on machine guns and shoulder-fired Stinger missiles and traveled to Philadelphia to inspect the merchandise last week.

Tarraf was looking for missiles that could "take down an F-16," according to the affidavit.

"These cases show the breadth of criminal activity engaged in by those who oppose us," said U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy.

The affidavit paints a picture of a plot to move stolen electronics that eventually led to Tarraf asking the undercover agent to acquire weapons that could be shipped to Iran or Syria for "the Resistance."

According to the affidavit, Tarraf settled on moving the weapons to the port of Latakia, Syria, because "he controlled the port" and "secrecy was guaranteed."

An attorney for Tarraf, Marc Neff, did not return a message left after hours on Monday.

A second man, Hussein Ali Asfour, a legal permanent U.S. resident of Centerville, Ga., was arrested Monday. Asfour was part of the plot to smuggle purportedly stolen electronics, including thousands of cell phones, nearly 200 laptops and 400 video game systems to Slovakia, Detroit and Los Angeles, investigators said.

It was not immediately clear whether Asfour has an attorney.

According the affidavit, the shipments to Slovakia put the undercover agent in touch with Tarraf, who then paid nearly $75,000 to the agent and sought more vehicles, laptops, cell phones and night vision cameras to be shipped to Lebanon before inquiring about weapons.