It began with the sale of stolen cell phones and PlayStation 2 systems in 2007 to a fencing operation in Detroit, one with alleged links to the extremist group Hezbollah, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The ring bought more than 20,000 stolen phones, hundreds of video consoles, and counterfeit Nike shoes. It began to order laptops and military gear destined for Beirut. It even paid for stolen BMWs to be shipped overseas.
On Saturday, the FBI said, it lured its big fish, an alleged arms dealer for Hezbollah, to Philadelphia and arrested him during a sting, charging him with trying to buy Stinger missiles and machine guns and export them to Syria or Iran for the use of “the Resistance” in Lebanon. Federal authorities unveiled the two-year undercover investigation yesterday, charging five men – three with dual residency in Slovakia and Lebanon, one from Lebanon, and one from Centerville, Ga. – with participating in a ring that shipped stolen goods to the ports of Beirut, Casablanca, Dubai, and Hong Kong. One man was charged with a crime related to terrorism; the U.S. alleges that he planned to use the Stinger missiles and machine guns against his enemies in the Middle East, not the United States.