Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

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Terror finance progress: suggested news reading

April 23, 2015
  • Judge denies Arab Bank’s request to throw out a verdict against it… more>>
  • The feds have busted 5 people and 4 companies for illegal shipments to Iranmore>>
  • The U.S. passes Saudi Arabia in oil production and is poised to become energy independent in 4 years… more>>
  • A Hamas treasurer has reportedly been arrested… more>>
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Islamic charity official becomes president of ISNA

December 16, 2014

The country’s largest Muslim group has selected a senior Islamic charity official as its new president. Azhar Azeez was elected as the president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in August, a Muslim civic group which was an unindicted co-conspirator in the successful trial against the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) for financing Hamas.

Azeez is also the “director of fund development” for Islamic Relief USA (IR-USA), the largest Muslim charity in America, and also oversees IR-USA’s regional offices based in Buena Park, California (Los Angeles area); Santa Clara, California (San Jose area); Palos Hills, Illinois (Chicago area); Totowa, New Jersey (Paterson area); Plano, Texas (Dallas area); and Temple Terrace, Florida (Tampa area). Azeez previously served as the president of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) chapter in Dallas. CAIR was also an unindicted co-conspirator in the HLF case. In his role at IR-USA, Azeez would probably have had authority over grants issued to other domestic organizations, including $118,000 that IR-USA earmarked for terror-affiliated groups in 2013.

The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch notes that CAIR is also part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that several of Azeez’s professional associates are connected to the Dallas Central Mosque where two of the five convicted HLF leaders were active.

Azeez’s election to such a high-profile position is somewhat surprising given the steady decline in IR-USA’s credibility and reputation over the last several years. IR-USA’s budget tumbled after the charity was revealed to have falsely inflated the value of its drug stockpiles, which represented a significant share of their total assets. IR-USA’s international affiliate—Islamic Relief Worldwide—has been banned by Israel and designated as a terrorist entity by the United Arab Emirates within the past several months. IR-USA’s president was quietly let go in late 2013.

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Mexican extortion scheme spreads to Texas

August 14, 2014

“Virtual kidnapping” ransom schemes have migrated from Mexico to El Paso according to border city medical doctors. Criminal groups call the physicians and tell them a loved one has been kidnapped, and demand that a ransom payment be wired to Mexico.

This development is ominous because it indicates the spread of socially destabilizing extortion rackets from the Northern Triangle and Mexico into a U.S. border state. Whether drug cartels, human smugglers, cuota syndicates, street gangs, or garden variety con artists are behind the scheme isn’t really the point.

The thing to do is to educate the people who are at risk for being targeted, to persuade them to report such incidents to law enforcement, and to refuse payment. Otherwise, if the ball really gets rolling and Americans comply with ransom demands more often, then that will drive up the amounts demanded and the trend will become more difficult to stop.

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “doctors without borders”… From the El Paso Times (h/t @1389):

‘Virtual kidnapping’ scam targets El Paso doctors

Scam strikes area medical professionals, does not appear cartel-related

By Daniel Borunda / El Paso Times

Posted:   08/02/2014

A terrifying telephone scam known as a “virtual kidnapping” is targeting doctors in El Paso and other Texas border cities.

An El Paso Police Department spokesman on Friday confirmed that police are aware of the extortion scam and a warning that has been circulating among the local medical community about the threatening phone calls, which purportedly come from a drug cartel.

The scheme is a new version of similar telephone scams and “there is nothing to indicate” it is cartel related, police spokesman Officer Javier Sambrano said. The number of reported doctor scam cases was not available.

Virtual kidnappings sprung up in Mexico several years ago feeding off fears of drug violence and abductions. It is called a “virtual kidnapping” because the victim is made to believe a loved one has been abducted when no kidnapping has taken place.

In the latest version, a person calls a doctor’s office and asks for a doctor by name. The caller claims to be from a drug cartel and that the cartel has kidnapped the doctor’s son or daughter. There is sometimes a crying child on the phone. The caller barks instructions, demands a ransom amount and the victim is ordered to wire the money to Mexico.

The victim does not realize no one has been actually kidnapped until after sending the money.

“It is important to take a minute to step back, try to think and remain calm,” Sambrano said.

The scam has been reported in other parts of the Texas-Mexico border.

Last month in South Texas, KRGV reported that a doctor in McAllen received a call claiming that his daughter had been kidnapped by the Zetas cartel. The caller demanded $50,000 or they would deliver his daughter’s head in a bag. Then, a girl crying and begging for her life was put on the phone. The doctor said that the call seemed frighteningly real for about 30 seconds before he became suspicious.

No ransom was paid. The doctor’s daughter was safe and had never been kidnapped.

In April, the FBI website warned about virtual kidnappings targeting U.S. citizens staying in hotels in Mexico.

“Callers impersonate themselves as cartel members or corrupt police officers who claim they’ve kidnapped a loved one and demand a ransom,” according to an FBI podcast. The victim is told to follow instructions in a scam that can run for three days. The FBI said that scammers are suspected to be Mexican prisoners using smuggled phones.

The FBI said the calls have warning signs — the calls come from an outside area code, the ransom is only accepted by wire transfer and the calls never come from the victim’s phone.

Sambrano said the calls are a variation of the “emergency” or “relative in Mexico” telephone scams that have previously hit the El Paso region. In those scams, a caller tricks a victim into believing they are a relative in Mexico. They usually start a call saying “Guess who it is?” They then claim to be the person that the victim guessed. The caller usually says they are coming to visit but then call to say they have been in an accident or arrested in Mexico and ask for money to be wired to save them from their predicament…

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Supporting mischief: recommended news reading

July 17, 2014
  • Are we in an age of unilateral easing of sanctions on rogue states without obtaining meaningful changes in behavior first? Case in point:  Japan on North Korea… more>>
  • A University of Texas student has pleaded guilty to luring recruits to wage jihad in Somalia, or, failing that, to prepare for World War IIImore>>
  • Boko Haram is illustrating how ineffective U.S. counter-terror finance policies can be… more>>
  • Smuggling eight guns from Minnesota to Nigeria stuffed in a brown paper bag between the seat cushions of a ’98 Mercury is one way to run afoul of authorities… more>>
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Video: examples of car insurance fraud

May 4, 2013

Staged accidents.  The “swoop & squat.”  Fake “paper cases.”  It’s a growth sector and revenue generator for organized crime.  You pay the price in increased premiums.  From KSAT in San Antonio earlier this year:

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Health care fraudsters sent $1.1 million to Iran

March 26, 2013
http://www.yourvalleyvoice.com/news/article_0cc20972-ab7c-11e1-8872-001a4bcf887a.html?mode=image&photo=0

Hossein Lahiji, Co-defendant

Hossein and Najmeh Lahiji, a naturalized U.S. citizen and his wife, have been indicted for medical billing fraud in Texas, and for sending the illicit proceeds to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.  Dr. Lahiji even accepted payments for medical treatment he claimed to perform in Texas while he was actually in Tehran.

The Lahijis funneled the dirty money through Espadana Exchange, an “unlicensed money remitting business”—ie, hawala business.  Iran sanctions expert and D.C. attorney Erich Ferrari has previously advised Iranian-Americans to “Just Say No” to engaging in hawala, also called havaleh, transactions destined for Iran.  Evidently, the Lahijis didn’t take his advice.

The couple’s trial was scheduled to begin yesterday.  The U.S. attorney’s office has these details:

McAllen Urologist and Wife Charged in Heath Care Fraud Scheme and Conspiracy to Violate Iranian Sanctions

HOUSTON – A federal grand jury has returned a four-count, superseding indictment against urologist Hossein Lahiji M.D. and his wife, attorney Najmeh Vahid Lahiji, both of McAllen and San Antonio, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The second superseding Indictment, returned late yesterday, charges the couple with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and for conspiring to violate Iranian sanctions.

The Lahijis are set to appear in Houston tomorrow morning at 9:45 before U.S. District Judge Mary Milloy.

This indictment alleges the Lahijis conspired to violate Iranian Sanctions by transferring approximately $1.1 million to Iran. The Lahijis allegedly utilized an unlicensed money remitting business called the Espadana Exchange to avoid the United States banking regulations and to allegedly make it appear they were not violating the United States embargo with Iran. The indictment alleges the defendants sent some of the monies representing profits of their alleged illegal health care fraud scheme to Iran for the purpose of making an investment on behalf of Hossein Lahiji and Najmeh Vahid Lahiji in real estate rental property in Iran, all in violation of the Iranian sanctions.

“The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will tenaciously pursue individuals who violate international emergency economic powers statutes,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation (CI) Special Agent in Charge Lucy Cruz. “IRS-CI’s unique skill set is to unravel the often concealed complex networks used to disguise international financial crimes.”

The health care fraud scheme alleged in this indictment accuses Hossein and Najmeh Lahiji of conspiring to defraud multiple health care benefit programs by submitting false and fraudulent claims in connection with the use of unlicensed and unqualified medical personal and for billing for medical services not rendered. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Sudan’s new refinery a golden goose?

September 26, 2012

Times have been tough for Sudan ever since it played host to Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s.  That hospitality brought Sudan a U.S. designation as a state sponsor of terror.  Sanctions against the Islamist regime have been ratcheted up since then, except that humanitarian assistance has been authorized, and the sanctions don’t apply to the newly formed South Sudan which broke away from Sudan proper.

Three-quarters of Sudan’s oil resources are now located in South Sudan, and U.S. sanctions against doing business with Sudan’s oil sector are tough.  For those reasons, Khartoum has pursued other sources of revenue, and is hoping that a brand new refinery will enable the country to sell $3 billion of gold next year.

From Reuters on Sept. 19:

Sudan opens first gold refinery to boost exports

Sudan opened its first gold refinery on Wednesday as it seeks to improve the quality of its rising gold exports and offset the economic damage inflicted by the loss of most of its oil revenues.

The country is increasing its gold production after losing three quarters of its oil output when South Sudan became independent in July last year.

The government hopes the new refinery in the capital Khartoum will help it to produce gold to international standards and reduce the amount of gold smuggling to overseas markets such as Dubai. Producers would receive more money for the higher-quality gold, thereby reducing the incentive to smuggle.

The refinery will have a daily production capacity of 900kg of gold and 200kg of silver, its head Mohamed Osman al-Zubeir said at the opening ceremony. This more than doubles the previous forecast for the refinery’s annual gold capacity, to 328 tonnes from 150 tonnes Sudan hopes to sell gold worth up to $3 billion this year, double last year’s gold revenue. Central bank governor Mohamed Kheir al-Zubeir told said on Wednesday that had sold 58 tonnes of gold worth $2.6 billion over the past 16 months.

There are several obstacles to Sudan’s goal:  first, gold smuggling to Beirut, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai is apparently commonplace.  Second, gold industry standards and trade associations probably prohibit the importation of gold from designated conflict zones such as Sudan (think “Blood Diamonds”) even in cases where particular governments may allow it.  Third, Read the rest of this entry ?