116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - A Lebanese man pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to buying guns in Lebanon that were shipped from Cedar Rapids by family members convicted of gun smuggling last year.
Fadi Yassine, 42, pleaded to one count of conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act - not having a license to export guns.
Yassine was arrested on a warrant when he arrived on an international flight Feb. 6 in New York City, court documents show. Following a federal hearing in Brooklyn, he waived further proceedings in New York and a judge transferred him back to U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids.
During the plea, Yassine admitted to conspiring with one or more people to broker guns, and shipping and transporting firearms without a license between late 2013 and May 12, 2015.
Court documents show Yassine purchased guns in Lebanon that had been shipped from the United States by Ali Al Herz, 51, his son Adam Al Herz, 23, his brother Bassem Herz, 31, and Bassem's wife, Sarah Zeaiter, 24.
A Homeland Security Investigation special agent reviewed Facebook account records and determined Yassine was advising Bassem Herz on purchasing firearms, court documents show. In the Facebook messages, the two men referenced the fact that a certain Glock model was the newest firearm on the market. Yassine also advised Bassem Herz not to buy Kimber guns or ammunition.
The affidavit also shows Yassine gave $30,000 in cash to Ali Al Herz in Lebanon for him to acquire more guns in the United States.
The Al Herz family members were convicted last year for smuggling guns from Iowa to Lebanon and are all serving federal prison terms.
Yassine also admitted during the hearing Wednesday that he knew the purpose was to export firearms to Lebanon.
U.S. Chief Magistrate C.J. Williams told Yassine he faces up to five years in federal prison and three years of supervised release following prison time. He also warned Yassine that he would likely face deportation from the United States after being released from prison because he isn't a U.S. citizen. Yassine also may not be able to return to this country as a result of his conviction, Williams added.
Yassine, as part of the plea, also must forfeit any property acquired from illegal activity.
The initial investigation of the Al Herz family led to the March 2015 seizure of 53 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition concealed inside Bobcat skid loaders within a shipping container at the Norfolk, Virginia, seaport bound for Lebanon. A subsequent investigation led to the May 2015 seizure of a second shipping container, loaded at Midamar Corp. in Cedar Rapids, also destined for Lebanon, with 99 guns and ammunition concealed inside skid loaders.
Evidence presented during hearings showed the containers were bound for southern Lebanon, which is controlled by Hezbollah, a terrorist organization. But the evidence showed none of the family was part of the terrorist group. Prosecutors said the motive for the crime was greed, as the guns could be sold for 10 times their value in Lebanon than in the United States.
l Comments: (319) 398-8318; firstname.lastname@example.org