A man who tried to smuggle $100,000 inside a used car to go to the Hizballah terrorist group in Lebanon is charged with money laundering and bulk cash smuggling in a complaint unsealed in Alexandria Tuesday. Mufid Kamal "Mark" Mrad was arrested in a government sting for trying to smuggle the cash inside a used car.
FBI agents have been watching Mrad since May 2008, court records show.
A month later, a government informant told him that he had spoken to someone in Lebanon who wanted to do a "test run" of sending cash to Lebanon inside cars. Mrad suggested vacuum-packing the cash and hiding it inside a car tire. That would reduce the size of the bundle and, Mrad said, "dogs cannot smell currency when it is inside a car tire."
In another meeting, the informant told Mrad that he had $100,000 that he needed laundered and returned to Lebanon. "It's not a problem," Mrad said. "What's a hundred thousand? It's nothing. A hundred thousand is nothing." Mrad also explained hiding cash in cars sent to Lebanon was a common practice among some Shia Muslims. "[T]he Shiites are all sending the same way….How do you think the money from Africa is getting to Beirut? What do you think, man? It is all the higher-ups. They're being paid money."
Mrad received $3,000 from the informant as partial payment for his help.
In April 2010, Mrad and the informant went to a towing officer where the car supposed to be carrying the cash awaited shipment to Beirut. When Mrad asked the informant to clarify whether the money was going to Hamas or Hizballah, the informant said it was going to Hizballah. Mrad responded, "I know they are for Hizballah!"
Mrad met with a second government informant at a restaurant in Fairfax in February. The informant told Mrad that he had "seven cars stuck at the port of Baltimore" and the government had frozen his bank accounts. He told Mrad that he needed his help to send $500,000 to Beirut. Mrad checked the informant's collar and shirt seams to see if he was wearing a wire. Not finding anything, Mrad confided in the informant that he had "placed money inside cars for Hizballah with two Shiite guys who are friends of ours, for 10%." He expressed concern that "a lot of people are recording stuff and are informants these days."
The case is similar to the recent prosecution of an Ohio couple, Hor and Amera Akl, who pleaded guilty in a scheme to deliver up to $500,000 to Hizballah for anonymous donors in the United States. Hor Akl was sentenced to six years in prison and his wife Amera Akl to 40 months for providing material support to Hizballah.