Syrian-Born U.S. Citizen Charged with Smuggling Tactical Equipment to ‘Syrian Fighters’

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File Photo: Associated Press

Syrian-born, naturalized U.S. citizen Rasheed Al Jijakli was arrested on Tuesday on allegations of repeatedly smuggling export-controlled scopes, boresighters, tactical equipment, and other items through Turkey to provide them to Syrian rebel fighters.

Three unindicted co-conspirators listed in the three-count indictment against Jijakli are also identified as foreign-born individuals. Two are listed as Syrian-born, naturalized U.S. citizens like Jijakli, identified as co-conspirator #1 (CC1) and co-conspirator 3 (CC3). The third is a Kuwaiti-born, naturalized Canadian citizen who was also the incorporator and president of the check cashing business for which Jijakli served as CEO, according to the indictment. The business was known as Palmyra Corporation and Orange County Check Cashing.

Jijakli is accused of “procuring and illegally exporting rifle scopes, laser boresighters and other tactical equipment from the U.S. to Syria, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA),” according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). A federal grand jury delivered the three count indictment against Jijakli on July 14. The indictment was unsealed on Tuesday. Additional charges include “conspiring to violate IEEPA and smuggling.”

The indictment states that between January 2012 and March 2013, Jijakli, the three unindicted co-conspirators, “and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, conspired and agree with each other to knowingly and willfully … export and attempt to export from the United States to Syria, items controlled by the CCL.” The CCL is the Commerce Control List.

The indictment states that Jijakli and three accomplices used funds from the check cashing business to purchase the U.S.-origin goods. They then transported the goods from the U.S. to Turkey to Syria where the items were delivered to “individuals and entities.”

Jijakli communicated with an unindicted co-conspirator located in Syria in January of 2012 and offered to buy what “items the co-conspirator wanted to be exported to Syria, such as rifle scopes and weapon conversion kits,” according to the court documents. The documents state that in June 2012, Jijakli communicated with the Syrian-based co-conspirator regarding what the co-conspirator would like to have smuggled to Syria.

In June and July, Jijikali and U.S.-based co-conspirators allegedly purchased 33 laser boresighters, ten tactical scopes with range finder cross hairs, six tactical flashlights, and seven night-vision rifle scopes from several different companies.

The items purchased, Jijakli then traveled to Syria in July 2012, according to the indictment. He also communicated to CC1 a method for successfully smuggling goods into Turkey. Additionally, he allegedly told that U.S.-based co-conspirator that he had help entering Syria.

Jijikali allegedly told CC1 on July 21, 2012, that he had delivered “’the items’ to an unindicted co-conspirator in Syria and other rebel fighters.”

He also told CC1 that “a ‘Russian Weapon’ would be available” to that co-conspirator the next time the co-conspirator traveled to Syria. He then began setting in motion future smuggling activity.

In mid-August 2012, Jijikali allegedly told CC1 that he had returned from Syria but lamented that the trip was not “too much fun” because he did not get to “join with (sic) some action.” Court documents stated that he later told CC1 that he met with “a rebel group in Syria, that they were tough fighters, and that they deserved to be supported.”

Using money from the check cashing business, CC1 purchased at least 24 rifle scopes, six night-vision rifle scopes from multiple companies in August, according to documents. Jijikali told him to purchase more.

CC3 allegedly traveled to Syria with U.S.-origin items in September 2012. After arriving in Syria and delivering the goods, he told CC1 that “they” were desperate and were in need of more scopes.

The indictment goes on to document more money from the check cashing business being used to purchase more rifle scopes and other tactical equipment to smuggle to Syria.

Then in February 2013, CC1 allegedly traveled on a flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Gaziantep, Turkey, with 14 bags that weighed 619 pounds. The bags contained U.S.-origin goods to be transported to Syria. CC1 then traveled from Turkey to Syria with the goods.

Jijakli is the 56-year-old CEO of an Orange County, California, check cashing business, according to the DOJ.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana.

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