The FBI today honored Stuart Drobny, a member of the Philadelphia-based private investigation firm Stumar Investigations, for helping to disrupt a counterfeit goods operation that had links to Hezbollah.
The federal investigation that Drobny assisted ultimately led to the indictment last November of 26 Hezbollah operatives and sympathizers who shipped stolen and counterfeit goods around the world. Members of the ring sought to buy missiles and machine guns that were to be shipped to Syria and Iran.
Drobny partnered with Jim Baldinger, of the law firm Carlton Fields, during the FBI investigation into Hezbollah-linked ring. "I am extremely proud of being part of the team that helped stop money flowing to terrorists," Drobny said, according to a news release.
Here's part the original story that we ran in November on this case:
Two years ago, an undercover FBI agent in Philadelphia met up with a Lebanese guy from Dearborn, Mich., who said he wanted to do a little business.
Their arrangement was pretty simple: the agent sold supposedly stolen laptops, cell phones and PlayStation systems to the guy, Hassan Mohamad Komeiha, who had the items shipped all over - Detroit, Los Angeles, Slovakia, Paraguay, Bahrain, you name it.
Then some of Komeiha's friends started making requests, started talking about "the Resistance" and taking out fighter planes, and this little arrangement got really serious.
Yesterday, federal authorities lifted the curtain on their long-running investigation, which climaxed Saturday when Dani Nemr Tarraf - one of Komeiha's pals - was arrested after he arrived in Philadelphia to allegedly examine anti-aircraft missiles and machine guns that he wanted shipped to Iran or Syria.
The feds announced charges against Tarraf, Komeiha and three other men who took part in a ring that distributed stolen goods around the world, according to the affidavit.
Authorities yesterday also detailed a separate but connected investigation that charged Komeiha and seven other men with running a stolen and counterfeit goods ring.
Tarraf, 39, who has residences in Trnava, Slovakia, and in Lebanon, faces the most serious charges - including conspiracy to acquire missile systems designed to destroy aircraft, conspiracy to possess machine guns and conspiracy to transport stolen property - which could bring life in prison.
"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," David Kris, the assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.
The investigation began in June 2007, when Komeiha, 39, met with the undercover agent in Philadelphia to discuss buying stolen laptops and Sony PlayStation 2 systems, according a federal affidavit.
The undercover agent started shipping large numbers of stolen items for Komeiha on an almost monthly basis.The following spring, Komeiha's bosses - Tarraf, and his brother Douri Nemr Tarraf - wired nearly $75,000 to the undercover for the shipped goods.
According to the affidavit, the agent met the Tarraf brothers in Slovakia, where the men asked if the agent could supply them with night-vision camera lenses and thermal-imaging devices. Douri Tarraf told the agent to communicate through encrypted e-mails, documents show.
During the following year, the stakes were raised. In June, the affidavit shows, Dani Tarraf asked the undercover agent if he could supply guided missiles that could "take down an F-16," and 10,000 machine guns.
The weapons, Tarraf said, should be sent to Syria or Iran, where they would be used by "the Resistance," according to the court documents.
On July 28, Tarraf met the undercover agent in Philadelphia, where he delivered a $20,000 down payment on FIM-92 Stinger missiles and 10,000 Colt M4 Carbines, authorities said.
Tarraf's plan fell apart when he was arrested Saturday. Another member of the ring, Hussein Ali Asfour, was arrested by authorities in Centerville, Ga. Their three alleged cohorts are still on the loose.