Cary car dealership settles claims of terrorist money laundering
Posted May 21, 2012
Cary, N.C. — A used-car dealership in Cary agreed Monday to forfeit money in a bank account to the federal government to settle a civil suit that alleged the business was laundering money for the Lebanon-based terror organization Hezbollah.
The government filed the civil asset forfeiture action last December in New York against 30 car dealerships from Michigan to Florida, including Cary Auto Sales, and bank accounts tied to the businesses.
Authorities allege that money was wired from Lebanon to the U.S. to buy used cars. The vehicles were then moved to West Africa and resold, and cash from the sales was mixed with profits from illegal drug distribution and funneled back to Lebanon to fund terrorist activities.
The government, which was trying to seize $400 million in assets in the case, lists Hezbollah as the most technically capable terrorist group in the world, with strong ties in Syria and Iran.
Cary Auto Sales was linked to more than 100 suspect wire transfers, totaling $4 million, according to court documents.
The settlement, which dealership attorney Dan Boyce said the government is expected to sign, notes that Cary Auto Sales wasn't directly involved in funneling money to Hezbollah and that there is no suggestion that owner Bassam Hanna was connected to the terrorist group.
As part of the settlement, Hanna will forfeit an undisclosed amount of cash from a BB&T account and will implement anti-money laundering guidelines for future sales.
Boyce said Hanna is relieved to put the allegations behind him and move on.