Federal Agents Search For PLO Connection In Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Federal agents who raided a clothing store were looking for evidence of illegal arms and cash shipments and believed the owners were members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a prosecutor says.
″We have information about some parcels that were shipped overseas, but at this time we don’t know what was in them,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney Devon Gosnell said Friday.
Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Internal Revenue Service raided the Warehouse of Fashions store Thursday night, seizing business records, a sawed-off shotgun, a rifle and $9,489 in cash.
Ms. Gosnell refused to say if the government had any evidence of illegal arms shipments.
Affidavits filed with an application for a search warrant said federal agents had a tip from a confidential informant identified as a former employee of the business who said he saw stacks of money and weapons, and that a federal agent had been asked about exporting weapons to Jordan.
According to court documents, the business is owned by four brothers - Basem Ibrahim, Mahmod Ibrahim, Mohamed Ibrahim and Wahip Ibrahim. None of the store owners was arrested, but a fifth brother, Najeh Ibrahim, 19, was taken into custody on a charge of threatening a government informant.
Ms. Gosnell said owners of the store were believed to be members of the PLO. ″These people were known to the agents for some time,″ she said.
Wahip Ibrahim, who identified himself as the manager of the clothing store, said he and his brothers are Palestinians who came to the United States from Jerusalem about eight years ago.
″What’s going on over there in the Middle East is not our business. We are not PLO,″ he said, adding that the informant was disgruntled because he was fired recently.
Ms. Gosnell said membership in the PLO and transfer of money outside the United States are not illegal. But she said financial transactions must be reported to the IRS if $10,000 or more is involved.
According to the affidavits, the informant told IRS Agent Eddie Daniel that Mahmod Ibrahim traveled to the Middle East in November, a day after two of the brothers were seen counting a large amount of cash.
″The money consisted of approximately 20 stacks of $100 and $50 dollar bills with each stack being approximately one foot high,″ one affidavit said.
The affidavit also said Mahmod Ibrahim opened an account at a bank in nearby Southaven, Miss., in November, and that on four occasions in December the Ibrahims made large cash deposits - each slightly less than $10,000.
In a second affidavit, ATF agent Randolph C. Little said the informant told him of seeing the Ibrahims with a sawed-off shotgun and another weapon that may have been an Israeli-made Uzi 9mm machine gun.
Little said another agent was approached by Basem Ibrahim and a cousin, Jawdat S. Ghneim, ″who were seeking to buy firearms from him to ship to Jordan.″