FBI raids Toledo-area homes and businesses, 26 indicted in stole - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

FBI raids Toledo-area homes and businesses, 26 indicted in stolen electronics ring

(Source: Toledo Police Department) (Source: Toledo Police Department)
TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -

Federal agents and Toledo Police raided multiple Toledo area homes and businesses Tuesday after 26 people were indicted for their alleged involvement in a stolen electronics ring. The effort was known as Operation Fence Line.

Authorities with the FBI, IRS, Toledo Police Department and Lucas County Sheriff's Office raided an apartment complex in the 800 block of South Avenue, a carryout at Hill and Reynolds, a home on Suffolk Road in Springfield Township, and several other homes and businesses. FBI agents were seen carrying dozens of boxes from the buildings. A man was also taken away from the South Ave. apartment building in handcuffs.

The United States Department of Justice says the accused sold stolen computers, smart phones and other electronics in Toledo, Michigan and the Middle East. Some in the group are also accused of illegally cashing millions of dollars worth of checks in their stores, laundering money and selling counterfeit clothing.

"It is indeed a great day for the people of Toledo and Lucas County," said FBI Special Agent Stephen Anthony. "With today's charges, arrests and seizures, the Awwad criminal enterprise has been effectively dismantled and put out of business."

The DOJ says some members of the group used guns, threats and violence as part of the operation, which was run for a decade in the Toledo area. Operation Fence Line began 18 months ago when Toledo police say they learned the crime ring was using their carryout stores to buy stolen property from drug addicts and criminals.

"The word got out there quickly: If you want to get rid of something stolen, these are the guys you go to," said TPD Chief George Kral. "That just fueled the criminal activity, whether it be burglary, theft, or robbery. These people know they would get quick cash without any questions being asked."

On Tuesday, 36 search warrants were served. Weapons, jewelry, electronics and cash were seized. At one point, 11 officers were taken to the hospital after raiding a business on South Byrne near Hill. They are being checked for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Of the 26 indicted, 15 were arrested in Toledo, five in Michigan, and other agents are searching for more overseas.

"Everyone up here is proud of the teams and partnerships," Agent Anthony said. "It's safe to say we are safer today because of the unwavering commitment of work of those that worked the case."

Indicted were Mamoun Awwad, 43, of Maumee; Adnan Awad, 33, of Toledo; Ihab Awad, 31, of Toledo; Ayman Awwad, 42, of Maumee; Anwar Awad, 39, of Toledo; Kamal Awwad, 40, of Toledo; Fady Awwad, 34, of Toledo; Aref Kahala, 23, of Maumee; Saif Alkhatib, 23, of Perrysburg; Haney Sarsour, 36, of Dearborn, Mich.; Ameen Sarsour, 31, of Dearborn, Mich.; Michael Safadi, 37, of Westland, Mich.; Freddy Delatorre, 32, of Toledo; Jeffrey Houttekier, 24, of Toledo; Ahmed Abdulateeef, 47, of Toledo; Ehab Adbdelsalam, 22, of Toledo; Timothy Fields, 32, of Toledo; Ali Abdallah, 34, of Dearborn, Mich.; Mustafa Deebajah, 27, of Dearborn, Mich.; Essa Allawneh, age unknown, of Amman, Jordan; Adli Alawneh, age unknown, of Amman, Jordan; Omar Dari, 54, of Ann Arbor, Mich.; Mutaz Almumani, 29, hometown unknown; Fadi Qasis, 30, hometown unknown; Mayssam Kaddoura, 36, of Toledo and Jamal Abdel Aziz, 44, of Toledo.

The Department of Justice released the following details of the case:

Mamoun Awwad, Adnan Awad, Ihab Awad, Ayman Awwad, Anwar Awad, Kamal Awwad, Fady Awwad and Aref Kahala are family members who own and operate various businesses in Toledo, including clothing stores, electronics stores and grocery/convenience stores. They use these businesses to facilitate various criminal schemes, including the sale of counterfeit goods, trafficking stolen goods and unlawfully cashing checks, according to the indictment.

The Awwad family enterprise bought stolen electronics, such as iPhones, iPads and Samsung cellular phones, from drug addicts and low-income people, then altered the electronics' hardware and software so they could be registered on cellular networks. The Awwad family enterprise then sold the stolen electronics locally, in Michigan and overseas. Mamoun Awwad did this, in part, by meeting with crew members of Royal Jordanian Airlines in Detroit to have them transport electronics and cash, according to the indictment.

The goal of the conspiracy was to generate cash and send it overseas to establish a series of residences in Rammoun, Palestine, for members of the Awwad family enterprise and their families to own and occupy, according to the indictment.

The family unlawfully cashed checks at the Reynolds Quick Stop and other grocery/convenience stores as a way to generate revenue and launder proceeds from the sale of counterfeit and stolen goods. The family cashed more than $11 million in checks at various store locations between 2011 and 2014, according to the indictment.

The family also knowingly sold shoes, sweat suits, t-shirts and other clothing bearing counterfeit logos and trademarks of brands including Nike, Timberland, Coogi, Ralph Lauren, RoccaWear, Ecko, Lacoste, Dolce Gabbana and others, according to the indictment.

The Awwad family enterprise used violence and threats of violence to maintain control of the stolen goods market in Toledo. For example, Mamoun Awwad threatened someone with a 9 mm pistol while an employee held a knife of their throat. In another incident, Mamoun Awwad assaulted someone outside a cellular phone store because that person tried to sell seven stolen iPhones without Mamoun Awwad's permission, according to the indictment.

The conspiracy took place from 2006 through 2015, according to the indictment.

Count 1 charges a RICO conspiracy. Count 2 charges conspiracy – interstate and foreign transportation of stolen property. Count 3 charges conspiracy to smuggle goods from the U.S. Count 4 charges conspiracy to commit access device fraud. Count 5 charges conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods. Count 6 charges conspiracy to commit money laundering.

“This is a sophisticated crime and money-laundering racket whose reach stretched from Ann Arbor to Amman,” Dettelbach said. “According to the indictment, they bought stolen electronics, often from drug addicts in Toledo, and shipped them out of the state and country for millions of dollars.”

“The Awwad criminal enterprise used force and intimidation to control their complex network of illegal schemes all in an effort to line their bank accounts with millions,” Anthony said. “We are pleased the strength of our long standing local, state, and federal law enforcement partnerships has successfully dismantled a pervasive criminal enterprise that has plagued the citizens of Toledo and Lucas County for more than a decade. “

“I think an operation such as this shows how well local law enforcement works with the federal government,” Kral said. “Multiple arrests, simultaneous search warrants, and complex investigations require synergy and cooperation. One agency alone simply can't get it done. The working relationship between TPD and our federal partners has never been better. The citizens of the City of Toledo are much safer thanks to this multidisciplinary approach to policing

“The 26 individuals indicted went to great lengths to create the illusion of a successful family enterprise. In reality, what they created was nothing more than a false front, hiding a tangled web of financial lies,” Stemen said. “This massive federal indictment has exposed these individuals for who they really are, thugs and thieves. It would not have been possible without the highly successful collaboration of IRS-Criminal Investigation and our federal and local law enforcement partners; including the Toledo Police Department and the Lucas County Sheriff's Office, both of which played critical roles in the success of this investigation.”

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Duncan Brown and Michael Freeman following an investigation by the FBI, Toledo Police Department, Lucas County Sheriff's Office and IRS-CI.

If convicted, the defendants' sentences will be determined by the court after a review of the federal sentencing guidelines and factors unique to the case, including the defendant's prior criminal record (if any), the defendant's role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Read the full 70 page federal indictment here.

Copyright 2015 Toledo News Now. All rights reserved.
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