Two men charged in firearms smuggling plot

Two men face federal charges for allegedly smuggling firearms from the United States to Africa and the Middle East inside used cars they bought at auctions in Central Florida.

According a release from to U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III today, Mahmoud Abdel-Ghani Mohammad Assaf, 45, and Yasser Ahmad Obeid, 19, are charged with conspiring to smuggle firearms from the United States, conspiring to deal in firearms without a license, and to ship and receive firearms in interstate and foreign commerce, in violation of federal export control and firearms laws.

If convicted, Assaf and Obeid face a maximum of 10 years in prison on each firearms and export violation charge, and five years for the conspiracy offenses.

According to the complaint, Assaf, a Jordanian national in the United States on a visitor's visa, and Obeid, a citizen of Lebanon and legal permanent resident living in St. Petersburg, are part of a network that smuggles firearms from the United States to the Middle East. The complaint alleges that the firearms were concealed in vehicles purchased at used car auctions in Central Florida and then exported to Africa and the Middle East.

Both were arrested June 25. Assaf and Obeid made their initial appearances before Magistrate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III. Assaf was detained pending further proceedings. Obeid's bond hearing is scheduled for 2 Friday, according to the release.


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