A shocking discovery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, shows that the reaches of the middle east conflict extend to main street America. Packages from a charity clothing drive, organized in support for Syria and Lebanon, contained boxes of brand new guns and ammunition among the clothing, according to federal court documents filed Tuesday.
Authorities seized more than 152 firearms in two shipments to Lebanon. It is unknown if more firearms were shipped and not discovered by the investigation.
Four individuals with connections to middle east were charged in the complaint: Ali Herz, 50; his brother, Bassem Herz, 29; his son, Adam Herz, 22; and Sarah Zaeiter, 24, the spouse of Bassem Herz.
The four have been taken into custody and are awaiting a hearing.
The conspiracy that came to light last year when an unnamed firearms dealer in Eastern Iowa became suspicious and notified authorities. An investigation led authorities to the four individuals and two businesses which they ran.
Early Tuesday morning local and federal law enforcement officials conducted several raids including at Midamar and Pizza Daddy, the two businesses owned by the family.
“Homeland Security Investigations is conducting a joint federal/state/local law enforcement operation in various locations around Cedar Rapids today,” Shawn Neudauer, public information officer for ICE and Homeland Security, said in a statement. “As this is an ongoing investigation there is nothing further that is publicly available at this time. However, there should be additional information available via the U.S. Attorney's Office — Northern District of Iowa (Cedar Rapids) later today.”
The U.S. Attorney's Office, which declined to comment.