A native of Lebanon accused by the government of trying to supply shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles and 10,000 machine guns to Iran or Syria was detained by a federal magistrate yesterday pending trial.
U.S. Magistrate Henry S. Perkin found that Dani Nemar Tarraf, 38, was a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Tarraf, a resident of Trnava, Slovakia, was arrested by federal agents in Philadelphia on Nov. 21 - after a two-year FBI undercover operation - and has been in federal custody since.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Miller had argued that if Tarraf were released on bail he would "have every incentive to flee," adding that the weapons Tarraf was negotiating to buy were destined for "the hands of stone-cold killers."
Prosecutors said in court papers that Tarraf had told investigators that he was a member of Hezbollah and that he was trying to acquire the weapons for the benefit of Hezbollah. (The U.S. has deemed Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon, a terrorist organization since 1997.)
Defense attorney Marc Neff agreed that there was probable cause to detain Tarraf.
"Obviously this is a serious case and [Tarraf] knows it's a serious case," Neff said after the hearing.
Tarraf was arrested after he arrived here, allegedly to inspect the FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Colt M4 Carbines that he wanted shipped to Iran or Syria. The feds said that Tarraf had made a $20,000 down payment over the summer.
Prosecutors said in court papers that Tarraf had confessed to the crimes. Authorities said that in addition to being a member of Hezbollah, Tarraf told them he had received military training from the organization.
If convicted of the charges - conspiracy to acquire missile systems designed to destroy aircraft, conspiracy to possess machine guns, conspiracy to transport stolen property, attempting to violate the Arms Export Control Act, making false statements to government officials and passport fraud - Tarraf faces a mandatory minimum 30 years behind bars and potentially life in prison.
Tarraf pleaded not guilty to all charges yesterday. Tarraf's brother Douri was also arrested in the alleged conspiracy and three other co-conspirators are on the loose.
In a separate but connected investigation, two defendants accused of participating in a stolen- and counterfeit-goods operation - Sadek Mohamad Koumaiha and Hassan Mahmoud Koumaiha, both of Dearborn, Mich. - were also detained yesterday pending trial.
Perkin said that both men, who pleaded not guilty, were flight risks.