California man pleads guilty to smuggling gun parts to Syria

August 14, 2018 - 1:39 pm

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — The chief executive of a California check cashing business pleaded guilty Monday to helping smuggle rifle parts and other military equipment to rebels in his native Syria.

Rasheed Al Jijakli, 57, was arrested last year and charged in federal court with violating U.S. laws that prohibit exports to Syria.

The CEO of Palmyra Corp. conspired with three others not charged in the indictment to export dozens of rifle scopes, laser-sighting devices and other tactical equipment to Syria, prosecutors said.

He pleaded guilty to violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, City News Service reported. Sentencing was set for Dec. 3.

Jijakli and others bought the goods in the U.S., flew with them to Turkey and then delivered them to rebel fighters in Syria between January 2012 and March 2013, the indictment said.

Various groups of rebels have fought the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Until recently, the CIA covertly backed some rebels.

In July 2012, Jijakli told one of his co-conspirators that he had arrived in Syria and gave the material to rebel fighters, the indictment said. Prosecutors would not say what group he supported.

Jijakli told the accomplice that the optical devices were more expensive in Syria, and it was cheaper to smuggle them from the U.S., the indictment said. He also described how to smuggle the items to Turkey without being caught.

After returning to the U.S., Jijakli told a co-conspirator that he didn't have "too much fun" because he was unable to "join ... some action," the indictment said.

Jijakli has no criminal history and "looks forward to moving forward with his life," defense attorney Kate Corrigan said. "He is hopeful that the (judge) will consider his background and good works," she said.

The three alleged co-conspirators, who are not named or charged in the indictment, include two Syria natives, who, like Jijakli, are U.S. citizens, and a Kuwaiti-born citizen of Canada who is the president of the corporation that does business in Orange County as Orange Check Cashing.

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