“West Hollywood Doctor Indicted on Federal Charges for Writing Prescriptions for Narcotics after being Ordered to Stop”

May 14, 2013

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on May 13, 2013 released the following:

“MAY 13 (LOS ANGELES) – A West Hollywood doctor surrendered to federal authorities this morning after being indicted last Friday on federal drug trafficking charges that allege he wrote more than 1,200 prescriptions for powerful painkillers after a federal order revoked his authority to prescribe those drugs.

James William Eisenberg, 72, who resides in the Venice district of Los Angeles, surrendered this morning at the United States Courthouse, where he is expected to be arraigned this afternoon.

Eisenberg is named in an indictment that charges him with four counts of using a revoked DEA registration number and three counts of distribution of hydrocodone, which is the generic drug found in brand-name products such as Vicodin and Norco.

Eisenberg allegedly wrote the prescriptions while he worked out of several medical offices in West Hollywood, including a Santa Monica Boulevard storefront he called Pacific Support Services. Eisenberg also issued “medical marijuana” recommendations from these West Hollywood locations, according to court documents and DEA administrative records.

In order to legally prescribe controlled substances such as hydrocodone, physicians must be registered with the United States Attorney General and have a valid DEA registration number. On December 14, 2011, a DEA administrative judge determined that Eisenberg acted as a “drug dealer” and suspended his registration number. The DEA issued an order permanently revoking Eisenberg’s registration on July 24, 2012.

The orders issued by the administrative judge were based on findings that Eisenberg, who at the time was working out of a “medical marijuana” club in Arizona, “lacked a legitimate medical purpose and acted outside of the usual course of professional practice” when he wrote prescriptions for oxycodone (the generic form of a drug often best known as the brand-name OxyContin) and Xanax in exchange for $150 cash payments. The DEA judge also found that Eisenberg wrote “medical marijuana” recommendations to undercover officers posing as patients, and that Eisenberg prescribed OxyContin to one of the undercover agents “before [Eisenberg] had even performed a physical examination.”

DEA investigators later learned that Eisenberg continued to prescribe controlled substances, including hydrocodone, in violation of the DEA’s orders. A review of a California Department of Justice database that can be used to track prescriptions showed that, following the suspension of Eisenberg’s registration number, patients filled more than 1,700 of his prescriptions for controlled substances, including more than 1,200 prescriptions for hydrocodone. As charged in the indictment, Eisenberg wrote one of those prescriptions on December 27, 2011, less than two weeks after his registration number was suspended.

DEA investigators executed a federal search warrant on one of Eisenberg’s West Hollywood offices on February 19, 2013. The affidavit in support of the search warrant outlines evidence, including surveillance and undercover operations, indicating that Eisenberg continued to write prescriptions for controlled substances in violation of the DEA’s revocation order. The evidence included an operation in which an undercover agent, posing as a patient, obtained a prescription from Eisenberg for hydrocodone and alprazolam (the generic form of a drug best known as Xanax). A receptionist at Eisenberg’s office asked the undercover agent if “he was looking for medical marijuana” as well, according to the search warrant affidavit. According to the affidavit, when a West Hollywood pharmacist refused to fill Eisenberg prescriptions for hydrocodone and alprazolam in June 2012, Eisenberg called the pharmacy and asked the pharmacist to make an “exception” and fill the prescription.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

If convicted of the seven counts in the indictment, Eisenberg faces a statutory maximum sentence of 46 years in federal prison.

The investigation into Eisenberg was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Federal District Court Judge: How Mandatory Minimums Forced Me to Send More Than 1,000 Nonviolent Drug Offenders to Federal Prison

October 26, 2012

The Nation on October 24, 2012 released the following:

Judge Mark W. Bennett

“Reuters/Joshua Lott

Growing up in blue collar Circle Pines, Minnesota, in the 1950s, raised by parents from the “Greatest Generation,” I dreamed only of becoming a civil rights lawyer. My passion for justice was hard-wired into my DNA. Never could I have imagined that by the end of my 50s, after nineteen years as one of 678 federal district court judges in the nation, I would have sent 1,092 of my fellow citizens to federal prison for mandatory minimum sentences ranging from sixty months to life without the possibility of release. The majority of these women, men and young adults are nonviolent drug addicts. Methamphetamine is their drug of choice. Crack cocaine is a distant second. Drug kingpins? Oh yes, I’ve sentenced them, too. But I can count them on one hand. While I’m extremely proud of my father’s service in World War II, I am greatly conflicted about my role in the “war on drugs.”

You might think the Northern District of Iowa—a bucolic area home to just one city with a population above 100,000—is a sleepy place with few federal crimes. You would be wrong. Of the ninety-four district courts across the United States, we have the sixth-heaviest criminal caseload per judge. Here in the heartland, I sentence more drug offenders in a single year than the average federal district court judge in New York City, Washington, Chicago, Minneapolis and San Francisco—combined. While drug cases nationally make up 29 percent of federal judges’ criminal dockets, according to the US Sentencing Commission, they make up more than 56 percent of mine. More startling, while meth cases make up 18 percent of a judge’s drug docket nationally, they account for 78 percent of mine. Add crack cocaine and together they account for 87 percent.

Crack defendants are almost always poor African-Americans. Meth defendants are generally lower-income whites. More than 80 percent of the 4,546 meth defendants sentenced in federal courts in 2010 received a mandatory minimum sentence. These small-time addicts are apprehended not through high-tech wiretaps or sophisticated undercover stings but by common traffic stops for things like nonfunctioning taillights. Or they’re caught in a search of the logs at a local Walmart to see who is buying unusually large amounts of nonprescription cold medicine. They are the low-hanging fruit of the drug war. Other than their crippling meth addiction, they are very much like the folks I grew up with. Virtually all are charged with federal drug trafficking conspiracies—which sounds ominous but is based on something as simple as two people agreeing to purchase pseudoephedrine and cook it into meth. They don’t even have to succeed.

I recently sentenced a group of more than twenty defendants on meth trafficking conspiracy charges. All of them pled guilty. Eighteen were “pill smurfers,” as federal prosecutors put it, meaning their role amounted to regularly buying and delivering cold medicine to meth cookers in exchange for very small, low-grade quantities to feed their severe addictions. Most were unemployed or underemployed. Several were single mothers. They did not sell or directly distribute meth; there were no hoards of cash, guns or countersurveillance equipment. Yet all of them faced mandatory minimum sentences of sixty or 120 months. One meth-addicted mother faced a 240-month sentence because a prior meth conviction in county court doubled her mandatory minimum. She will likely serve all twenty years; in the federal system, there is no parole, and one serves an entire sentence minus a maximum of a 15 percent reduction rewarded for “good time.”

Several years ago, I started visiting inmates I had sentenced in prison. It is deeply inspiring to see the positive changes most have made. Some definitely needed the wake-up call of a prison cell, but very few need more than two or three years behind bars. These men and women need intensive drug treatment, and most of the inmates I visit are working hard to turn their lives around. They are shocked—and glad—to see me, and it’s important to them that people outside prison care about their progress. For far too many, I am their only visitor.

If lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug addicts actually worked, one might be able to rationalize them. But there is no evidence that they do. I have seen how they leave hundreds of thousands of young children parentless and thousands of aging, infirm and dying parents childless. They destroy families and mightily fuel the cycle of poverty and addiction. In fact, I have been at this so long, I am now sentencing the grown children of people I long ago sent to prison.

For years I have debriefed jurors after their verdicts. Northwest Iowa is one of the most conservative regions in the country, and these are people who, for the most part, think judges are too soft on crime. Yet, for all the times I’ve asked jurors after a drug conviction what they think a fair sentence would be, never has one given a figure even close to the mandatory minimum. It is always far lower. Like people who dislike Congress but like their Congress member, these jurors think the criminal justice system coddles criminals in the abstract—but when confronted by a real live defendant, even a “drug trafficker,” they never find a mandatory minimum sentence to be a just sentence.

Many people across the political spectrum have spoken out against the insanity of mandatory minimums. These include our past three presidents, as well as Supreme Court Justices William Rehnquist, whom nobody could dismiss as “soft on crime,” and Anthony Kennedy, who told the American Bar Association in 2003, “I can accept neither the necessity nor the wisdom of federal mandatory minimum sentences.” In 2005, four former attorneys general, a former FBI director and dozens of former federal prosecutors, judges and Justice Department officials filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court opposing the use of mandatory minimums in a case involving a marijuana defendant facing a fifty-five-year sentence. In 2008, The Christian Science Monitor reported that 60 percent of Americans opposed mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenders. And in a 2010 survey of federal district court judges, 62 percent said mandatory minimums were too harsh.

Federal judges have a longstanding culture of not speaking out on issues of public concern. I am breaking with this tradition not because I am eager to but because the daily grist of what I do compels me to. In 1999, Judge Robert Pratt of the Southern District of Iowa, a courageous jurist whose brilliant opinion in Gall v. United States led to one of the most important Supreme Court sentencing opinions in my professional life, wrote a guest editorial in The Des Moines Register criticizing federal sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums. He ended by asking, “If we don’t speak up, who will?” I hope more of my colleagues will speak up, regardless of their position on the fairness of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. This is an issue of grave national consequence. Might there be a problem when the United States of America incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any nation in the world?”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


U.S. busts an alleged global online drug market, arrests eight

April 17, 2012

Chicago Tribune on April 16, 2012 released the following:

“Dan Whitcomb | Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Eight men charged with running an elaborate online narcotics market that sold drugs to 3,000 people in the United States and 34 other countries have been arrested following a two-year investigation dubbed “Operation Adam Bomb,” prosecutors said on Monday.

The secret ring known as “The Farmer’s Market” operated through the TOR computer network, which allows users to communicate anonymously, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed on Monday in Los Angeles.

The online drug market provided order forms and customer service, guaranteeing delivery in exchange for a commission and accepting payment through PayPal, Western Union and other means, the indictment charges.

Authorities said the defendants were accused of running one of the most sophisticated drug marketplaces on the Internet and said the prosecution represented a first of its kind.

“The drug trafficking organization targeted in Operation Adam Bomb was distributing dangerous and addictive drugs to every corner of the world, and trying to hide their activities through the use of advanced anonymizing on-line technology,” Briane Grey, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration acting special agent in charge, said in a written release.

“Today’s action should send a clear message to organizations that are using technology to conduct criminal activity that the DEA and our law enforcement partners will track them down and bring them to justice,” Grey said.

Marc Willems, 42, who is accused of creating and running “The Farmer’s Market,” was taken into custody at his home in Lelystad, Netherlands, by Dutch authorities, U.S. Attorneys spokeswoman Gymeka Williams said.

Law enforcement officials in Bogota arrested 42-year-old Michael Evron, a U.S. citizen living in Argentina who allegedly oversaw technical and customer support for the online marketplace, as he was attempting to leave Colombia, Williams said.

Jonathan Colbeck, 51; Brian Colbeck, 47; Ryan Rawls, 31; Jonathan Dugan, 27; George Matzek, 20; and Charles Bigras, 37, were arrested at their respective homes in Iowa, Michigan, Georgia, New York, New Jersey and Florida.

All eight defendants were charged with federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges and prosecutors had filed extradition papers to return Willems and Evron back to the United States for trial, Williams said.

Each faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

According to the 66-page indictment, “The Farmer’s Market” allowed independent sources to advertise illegal drugs – including LSD, ecstasy, fentanyl, mescaline ketamine, DMT and high-end marijuana – for sale to the public.

The deals were allegedly handled through the online marketplace, which processed more than 5,200 orders for controlled substances valued at more than $1 million between January 2007 and October 2009, the indictment charges.

The law enforcement operation was called “Adam Bomb” because the original name of the marketplace was Adamflowers, according to the indictment.

According to its website, TOR offers free software and an open network that allows users to defend against “network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Several Individuals Charged in Texas in Alleged Murder-for-Hire Plot and Drug Conspiracy

March 26, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on March 26, 2012 released the following:

“LAREDO, TX—Several men have been arrested and charged in a conspiracy related to drug trafficking and/or an attempted murder-for-hire plot, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Kevin Corley, 29, and Samuel Walker, 28, both of Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Shavar Davis, 29, of Denver, were taken into custody Saturday afternoon in Laredo, while Marcus Mickle, 20, and Calvin Epps, 26, both of Hopkins, South Carolina, were arrested in South Carolina. A sixth man, Mario Corley, 40, of Saginaw, Texas, was also taken into custody in relation to this case in Charleston, South Carolina.

The criminal complaint charging Corley, Walker, and Davis was filed just a short time ago in Laredo federal court, at which time they made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Diana Song Quiroga. Mickle and Epps, charged in a now-unsealed indictment, are expected to make their initial appearances in Columbia, South Carolina this afternoon.

The investigation began in January 2011, when Mickle began negotiations with whom he thought were members of the Los Zetas Cartel, but were actually undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, to purchase marijuana in return for stolen weapons. The criminal complaint indicates that as they began discussions about the distribution of marijuana in the Columbia, South Carolina area, Mickle and Epps allegedly told undercover agents about a friend in the military who could provide military weapons to them. The agents were later introduced to Corley, who allegedly identified himself as an active duty officer in the U.S. Army responsible for training soldiers. He offered to provide tactical training for cartel members and to purchase weapons for the cartel under his name.

The complaint states that over the next several months, Corley continued to communicate with undercover agents regarding the services he could provide the cartel as a result of the training, experience, and access to information/equipment afforded him as an active duty soldier. According to the criminal complaint, Corley allegedly mailed an Army tactics battle book to the agents, thoroughly explained military tactics, and told undercover agents he could train 40 cartel members in two weeks.

On January 7, 2012, Corley traveled to Laredo and met with undercover agents, at which time the agents inquired about his ability to perform “wet work,” allegedly understood to mean murder-for-hire; specifically, whether he could provide a team to raid a ranch where 20 kilograms of stolen cocaine were being kept by rival cartel members. Corley confirmed he would conduct the contract killing with a small team, at a minimum comprised of himself and another person whom he described as an active duty soldier with whom he had already consulted. According to the complaint, Corley ultimately agreed to $50,000 and five kilograms of cocaine to perform the contract killing and retrieve the 20 kilograms of cocaine, and he offered to refund the money if the victim survived.

Corley further offered to provide security for Mickle and Epps’ purchase of 500 pounds of marijuana for transport from Texas to South Carolina. He traveled with them to Laredo, where they loaded the marijuana into a tractor trailer and attempted to escort it back to South Carolina. However, the tractor trailer carrying the load was stopped and seized in La Salle County, Texas, on January 14, 2012. According to the complaint, Corley continued to contact undercover agents to discuss the possibility of future transactions with the agents. Corley allegedly arranged for 300 pounds of marijuana to be delivered to Mario Corley in Charleston and allegedly assisted in brokering 500 pounds of marijuana and five kilograms of cocaine for Mickle and Epps and discussed the distribution of these narcotics in South Carolina, Texas, and Colorado.

On March 5, 2012, Corley delivered two AR-15 assault rifles with scopes, an airsoft assault rifle, five allegedly stolen ballistic vests, and other miscellaneous equipment to an undercover agent in Colorado Springs in exchange for $10,000. At the meeting, Corley and the undercover agent allegedly again discussed the contract killing and the retrieval of the cocaine, which was to occur on March 24, 2012. Corley allegedly stated he had purchased a new Ka-Bar knife to carve a “Z” into the victim’s chest and was planning on buying a hatchet to dismember the body.

On March 24, 2012, Corley, Walker, and Davis traveled to Laredo and met with undercover agents, at which time they discussed the location of the intended victim, the logistics of performing the contract kill, and their respective roles. The three were arrested, during which time a fourth suspect was shot and killed. A subsequent search of the vehicle in which Corley and the other co-conspirators arrived revealed two semi-automatic rifles with scopes, one bolt-action rifle with a scope and bipod, one hatchet, one Ka-Bar knife, one bag of .223 caliber ammunition, and one box of .300 caliber ammunition.

The criminal complaint charges conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and carries a possible punishment of a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison and/or a $10 million fine. Use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking or violent crime could result in up to 10 years in prison, which is served consecutively to any other prison term imposed. Those charged in the indictment for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, including Corley, Mickle, and Epps, also face five to 40 years in prison if convicted.

Corley, Walker, and Davis are set for a detention hearing on March 29, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. before Judge Song Quiroga in the Southern District of Texas. They were all remanded to federal custody pending further criminal proceedings.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the DEA and the FBI with the assistance of U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Roberto Ramirez and Jody Young.

Criminal complaints and indictments are formal accusations of criminal conduct, not evidence. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Beirut Bank Seen as a Hub of Hezbollah’s Financing

December 14, 2011

The New York Times on December 14, 2011 released the following:

“By JO BECKER

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Last February, the Obama administration accused one of Lebanon’s famously secretive banks of laundering money for an international cocaine ring with ties to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Now, in the wake of the bank’s exposure and arranged sale, its ledgers have been opened to reveal deeper secrets: a glimpse at the clandestine methods that Hezbollah — a terrorist organization in American eyes that has evolved into Lebanon’s pre-eminent military and political power — uses to finance its operations. The books offer evidence of an intricate global money-laundering apparatus that, with the bank as its hub, appeared to let Hezbollah move huge sums of money into the legitimate financial system, despite sanctions aimed at cutting off its economic lifeblood.

At the same time, the investigation that led the United States to the bank, the Lebanese Canadian Bank, provides new insights into the murky sources of Hezbollah’s money. While law enforcement agencies around the world have long believed that Hezbollah is a passive beneficiary of contributions from loyalists abroad involved in drug trafficking and a grab bag of other criminal enterprises, intelligence from several countries points to the direct involvement of high-level Hezbollah officials in the South American cocaine trade.

One agent involved in the investigation compared Hezbollah to the Mafia, saying, “They operate like the Gambinos on steroids.”

On Tuesday, federal prosecutors in Virginia announced the indictment of the man at the center of the Lebanese Canadian Bank case, charging that he had trafficked drugs and laundered money not only for Colombian cartels, but also for the murderous Mexican gang Los Zetas.

The revelations about Hezbollah and the Lebanese Canadian Bank reflect the changing political and military dynamics of Lebanon and the Middle East. American intelligence analysts believe that for years Hezbollah received as much as $200 million annually from its primary patron, Iran, along with additional aid from Syria. But that support has diminished, the analysts say, as Iran’s economy buckles under international sanctions over its nuclear program and Syria’s government battles rising popular unrest.

Yet, if anything, Hezbollah’s financial needs have grown alongside its increasing legitimacy here, as it seeks to rebuild after its 2006 war with Israel and expand its portfolio of political and social service activities. The result, analysts believe, has been a deeper reliance on criminal enterprises — especially the South American cocaine trade — and on a mechanism to move its ill-gotten cash around the world.

“The ability of terror groups like Hezbollah to tap into the worldwide criminal funding streams is the new post-9/11 challenge,” said Derek Maltz, the Drug Enforcement Administration official who oversaw the agency’s investigation into the Lebanese Canadian Bank.

In that inquiry, American Treasury officials said senior bank managers had assisted a handful of account holders in running a scheme to wash drug money by mixing it with the proceeds of used cars bought in the United States and sold in Africa. A cut of the profits, officials said, went to Hezbollah, a link the organization disputes.

The officials have refused to disclose their evidence for that allegation. But the outlines of a broader laundering network, and the degree to which Hezbollah’s business had come to suffuse the bank’s operations, emerged in recent months as the bank’s untainted assets were being sold, with American blessings, to a Beirut-based partner of the French banking giant Société Générale.

Of course, a money-laundering operation does not just come out and identify itself. But auditors brought in to scrub the books discovered nearly 200 accounts that were suspicious for their links to Hezbollah and their classic signs of money laundering.

In all, hundreds of millions of dollars a year sloshed through the accounts, held mainly by Shiite Muslim businessmen in the drug-smuggling nations of West Africa, many of them known Hezbollah supporters, trading in everything from rough-cut diamonds to cosmetics and frozen chicken, according to people with knowledge of the matter in the United States and Europe. The companies appeared to be serving as fronts for Hezbollah to move all sorts of dubious funds, on its own behalf or for others.

The system allowed Hezbollah to hide not only the sources of its wealth, but also its involvement in a range of business enterprises. One case involved perhaps the richest land deal in Lebanon’s history, the $240 million purchase late last year of more than 740 pristine acres overlooking the Mediterranean in the religiously diverse Chouf region.

The seller was a jet-set Christian jeweler, Robert Mouawad, whose clientele runs from Saudi royalty to Hollywood royalty. The buyer, at least on paper, was a Shiite diamond dealer, Nazem Said Ahmad.

In fact, according to people knowledgeable about Beirut real estate, the development corporation’s major investor was a relative of a former Hezbollah commander, Ali Tajeddine. The investor, in turn, received money that flowed through the bank from companies the United States has since designated as Hezbollah fronts, and from dealers implicated in the trade in so-called conflict diamonds and minerals, the Americans and Europeans with knowledge of the matter said. The Lebanese Canadian Bank provided a crucial loan.

And the deal fit a pattern, highly controversial in this religiously combustible land, in which entities tied to Hezbollah have been buying up militarily strategic pieces of property in largely Christian areas, helping the movement quietly fortify its geopolitical hegemony.

In a recent interview at his home in Taybeh, just north of the border with Israel — or as the signs here say, “Palestine” — Hezbollah’s chief political strategist and a member of Parliament, Ali Fayyad, denied that his organization was behind the Chouf purchase or other, similar land deals. He dismissed the American drug-trafficking allegations as politically motivated “propaganda,” adding, “We have no relationship to the Lebanese Canadian Bank.” The United States, he said, was simply persecuting innocent Shiite businessmen as a way “to punish us because we won our battle with Israel.”

For the United States, taking down the bank was part of a long-running strategy of deploying financial weapons to fight terrorism. This account of the serpentine, six-year inquiry and what has since been revealed is based on interviews with government, law enforcement and banking officials across three continents, as well as intelligence reports and police and corporate records.

As the case traveled up the administration’s chain of command beginning in the fall of 2010, some officials proposed leaving the Hezbollah link unsaid. They argued that simply blacklisting the bank would disrupt the network while insulating the United States from suspicions of playing politics, especially amid American alarm about ebbing influence in the Middle East. But the prevailing view was that the case offered what one official called “a great opportunity to dirty up Hezbollah” by pointing out the hypocrisy of the “Party of God” profiting from criminal activity.

Certainly the United States had ample cause to want to dirty up Hezbollah, Iran’s armed proxy and a persistent irritant to American interests in a chronically troubled region. (Just last week, in fact, Hezbollah’s long-running feud with the Central Intelligence Agency heated up when the organization broadcast what it said were the names of 10 American spies who had worked in recent years at the embassy in Beirut. )

The time was ripe, too, for taking on Hezbollah — a moment that crystallized its ascent but also its vulnerability. Just weeks before, Hezbollah’s political wing had played Lebanese kingmaker, engineering the fall of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, an American ally, and installing its own choice in his stead. At the same time, though, a United Nations tribunal was preparing to indict Hezbollah members in a spectacular bombing that killed Mr. Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in 2005.

John O. Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism adviser, recalled the debate in a recent interview. “I thought that if Hezbollah was involved in the drug trade,” he said, “let’s make sure that gets out.”

A State Within a State

Founded three decades ago as a guerrilla force aimed at the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has never before had such a prominent place in the country’s official politics. Yet much of its power, and its ability to operate with some impunity, derives from elsewhere: from its status as a state within the Lebanese state.

Its militia is considerably stronger than the national army. Its social service agencies perform many of the functions of government, and it controls the international airport and the smuggling routes along the Syrian border, as well as the budgets of the government agencies charged with policing them.

In an interview, the chief of Lebanese customs’ drug and money-laundering unit, Lt. Col. Joseph N. Skaf, described a Sisyphean task: Passengers are allowed to bring in unlimited amounts of cash without declaring it. He has only 12 officers to search for drugs, and scanners at the airport and seaport do not work. “My hands are tied,” he said.

That this sliver of a country would be a crossroads for all manner of trade owes much to the flourishing of a worldwide diaspora; more Lebanese live abroad than at home. Through criminal elements in these émigré communities, Hezbollah has gained a deepening foothold in the cocaine business, according to an assessment by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime described in a leaked 2009 State Department cable.

From a trafficking standpoint, the émigrés were in the right places at the right time. As demand increased in Europe and the Middle East, the cartels began plying new routes — from Colombia, Venezuela and the lawless frontier where Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina meet, to West African countries like Benin and Gambia. From there, drugs moved north through Portugal or Spain, or east via Syria and Lebanon.

According to Lebanon’s drug enforcement chief, Col. Adel Mashmoushi, one path into the country was aboard a weekly Iranian-operated flight from Venezuela to Damascus and then over the border. Several American officials confirmed that, emphasizing that such an operation would be impossible without Hezbollah’s involvement.

In South America and in Europe, prosecutors began noticing Lebanese Shiite middlemen working for the cartels. But the strongest evidence of an expanding Hezbollah role in the drug trade, that it was not just the passive recipient of tainted money, comes from the two investigations that ultimately led to the Lebanese Canadian Bank.

The trail began with a man known as Taliban, overheard on Colombian wiretaps of a Medellín cartel, La Oficina de Envigado. Actually, he was a Lebanese transplant, Chekri Mahmoud Harb, and in June 2007, he met in Bogotá with an undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration and sketched out his route.

Cocaine was shipped by sea to Port Aqaba, Jordan, then smuggled into Syria. After Mr. Harb bragged that he could deliver 950 kilos into Lebanon within hours, the undercover agent casually remarked that he must have Hezbollah connections. Mr. Harb smiled and nodded, the agent reported.

(Jordanian officials, after extensive surveillance, later told the D.E.A. that the Syrian leg of the shipment was coordinated by a Syrian intelligence officer assigned as a liaison to Hezbollah. From there, multiple sources reported, Hezbollah operatives charged a tax to guarantee shipments into Lebanon.)

Soon the cartel was giving the agent money to launder: $20 million in all. But before Mr. Harb could reveal the entire scheme and identify his Hezbollah contacts, the operation broke down: The C.I.A., initially skeptical of a Hezbollah link, now wanted in on the case. On the eve of a planned meeting in Jordan, it forced the undercover agent to postpone. His quarry spooked. In the end, Mr. Harb was convicted on federal drug trafficking and money-laundering charges, but the window into the organization’s heart had slammed shut.

It was “like having a girl you love break up with you,” one agent said later, adding, “We lost everything.”

A New Target

Actually they had not. Before long, a new target emerged.

A call had come in to a wiretapped phone tied to Mr. Harb and the cartel. The caller had arranged for cocaine proceeds to be picked up at a Paris hotel and laundered back to Colombia. The meeting turned out to be a sting.

“He says, ‘I just lost a million euros in France,’ ” recalled one of the agents listening in. “The way he talked — no one loses a million euros and is so nonchalant about it. Usually, there are bodies in the street.”

Agents had known that there was a major money launderer whose phone sat in Lebanon. Now they had a name: Ayman Joumaa, formerly of Medellín, now owner of the Caesars Park Hotel in Beirut. He was a Sunni Muslim, but cellphones seized at the Paris hotel linked him to Shiites in Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon, according to Interpol records.

He was also known to Israeli intelligence. Israeli intercepts showed him in contact with a member of Hezbollah’s “1,800 Unit,” alleged to coordinate attacks inside Israel. Mr. Joumaa’s contact, in turn, worked for a senior operative who the Israelis believed handled Hezbollah’s drug operations.

His name was Abu Abdallah, and he had popped up in the Harb wiretaps, too: At one point, as Mr. Harb was complaining about “the sons of whores I owe money to,” a relative from his hometown warned that the “people of Abu Abdallah, the people we do not dare have problems or fight with,” were looking for him, wanting money.

Eventually an American team dispatched to look into Mr. Joumaa’s activities uncovered the used-car operation. Cars bought in United States were sold in Africa, with cash proceeds flown into Beirut and deposited into three money-exchange houses, one owned by Mr. Joumaa’s family and another down the street from his hotel. The exchanges then deposited the money, the ostensible proceeds of a booming auto trade, into the Lebanese Canadian Bank, so named because it was once a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Canada Middle East.

But the numbers did not add up. The car lots in the United States, many owned by Lebanese émigrés and one linked to a separate Hezbollah weapons-smuggling scheme, were not moving nearly enough merchandise to account for all that cash, American officials said. What was really going on, they concluded, was that European drug proceeds were being intermingled with the car-sale cash to make it appear legitimate.

Hezbollah received its cut either from the exchange houses, or via the bank itself, according to the D.E.A. And the Treasury Department concluded that Iran also used the bank to avoid sanctions, with Hezbollah’s envoy to Tehran serving as go-between.

In Washington, after a long debate over when to act and what to make public, the administration decided to invoke a rarely used provision of the Patriot Act. Since the bank had been found to be of “primary money-laundering concern,” the Treasury Department could turn it into an international pariah by forbidding American financial institutions to deal with it. President Obama was briefed, and on Feb. 10, Treasury officials pulled the trigger.

As for Mr. Joumaa, the indictment announced Tuesday goes beyond the Europe-based operation outlined in the Lebanese Canadian Bank case. It charges him with coordinating shipments of Colombian cocaine to Los Zetas in Mexico for sale in the United States, and laundering the proceeds.

Whether he will ever face trial is an open question. The United States has no extradition treaty with Lebanon, and Mr. Joumaa’s whereabouts are unknown. He did not respond to several messages left at his hotel by The New York Times. Around Beirut, rumors abound.

Growing Skepticism

The Americans had identified only a handful of drug-tainted accounts at the Lebanese Canadian Bank. The search for further trouble began over the summer, after the Société Générale de Banque au Liban, or S.G.B.L., agreed to buy the bank’s assets.

As part of its own agreement with Treasury officials, Lebanon’s Central Bank set up a process to scrub the books. But compliance officers at S.G.B.L.’s French partner, Société Générale, were skeptical of the Central Bank’s choice of investigators. One of them, the local affiliate of the international auditing firm Deloitte, had presumably missed the drug-related accounts the first time around, when it served as the Lebanese Canadian Bank’s outside auditor.

And, according to people knowledgeable about Lebanese banking, the central bank’s on-the-ground representative had been recommended to that post by Hezbollah.

As an extra step, to reassure wary international banks, the chairman of S.G.B.L., Antoun Sehnaoui, commissioned a parallel audit, with the help of Société Générale’s chief money-laundering compliance officer. And to make sure that his bank did not run afoul of Treasury officials by inadvertently taking on dirty assets, he also hired a consultant intimately familiar with the Patriot Act provision used to take the bank down: John Ashcroft, the former attorney general whose Justice Department wrote the law.

Identifying suspicious accounts is not a subjective business. Banks rely on internationally recognized standards and software that contains certain triggers.

For the assets of the Lebanese Canadian Bank, the process worked this way, according to the Americans and Europeans knowledgeable about the case:

Initially, the auditors looked only at records for the past year. As they began combing through thousands of accounts, they looked for customers with known links to Hezbollah. They also looked for telltale patterns: repeated deposits of vast amounts of cash, huge wire transfers broken into smaller transactions and transfers between companies in such wildly incongruous lines of business that they made sense only as fronts to camouflage the true origin of the funds.

Each type of red flag was assigned a point value. An account with 1 or 2 points on a scale to 10 was likely to survive. One with 8 or 9 cried out for further scrutiny. Ultimately, the auditors were left with nearly 200 accounts that appeared to add up to a giant money-laundering operation, with Hezbollah smack in the middle, according to American officials. Complex webs of transactions featured the same companies over and over again, most of them owned by Shiite businessmen, many known Hezbollah supporters. Some have since been identified as Hezbollah fronts.

At the center of many of these webs were companies trading in diamonds, which experts say are fast replacing more traditional money-laundering vehicles because they are easy to transport and are generally traded for cash. Large transactions leave no paper trail, and values can be altered through bogus transactions. A number of these dealers had been implicated in the buying of “conflict diamonds” and other minerals used to finance civil wars and human-rights abuses in Africa.

In some cases, money moved in amounts — tens of millions of dollars at a clip — that made no sense, given the business models and potential sales of the companies involved.

“It’s like these guys no one had ever heard of became the most successful multimillionaires overnight,” said one person with knowledge of the investigation. “It’s Hezbollah’s money.”

Mr. Sehnaoui closed the deal in September. He declined to discuss details, but said: “We bought certain assets of the Lebanese Canadian Bank, and only the clean ones. We did not take any even slightly questionable clients.”

Lawyers for Mr. Ashcroft’s firm said all the problematic accounts had been excised, even though it meant losing nearly $30 million a year in interest and fees. “As current and potential problems have been uncovered, he has not hesitated to act,” Mr. Ashcroft said of his client.

From the Treasury Department’s perspective, the case is a victory, albeit an incremental one, in the battle against terrorism financing. Lebanon’s Central Bank showed that it was willing to shut down the Lebanese Canadian Bank and sell it to a “responsible owner,” said Daniel L. Glaser, assistant Treasury secretary for terrorism financing. An important avenue to Hezbollah has been blocked.

Still, Treasury officials have no illusions that their work here is done. From the beginning, the blacklisting was also intended as a wider warning to a banking industry that, with secrecy to rival the Swiss, forms the backbone of Lebanon’s economy: henceforth, other bankers did business with Hezbollah at their peril.

“What the Central Bank hasn’t fully demonstrated, and the jury is still out, is whether they will use this as a launching pad to ensure that these illicit actors aren’t migrating elsewhere,” Mr. Glaser said.

The signs are not terribly encouraging. The Central Bank governor, Riad Salameh, cut short an interview when asked about the aftermath of the American action, calling it an “old story.” As for those nearly 200 suspect accounts, Mr. Salameh would only say that he does not involve himself in such commercial questions.

Privately, he has played down the findings to the Treasury Department, attributing much of the suspicious activity to peculiarities in the way business is done in Africa. Those accounts he did deem problematic, he told the Americans, have been referred to Lebanon’s general prosecutor. But the prosecutor refused to comment, and his deputy, who handles money-laundering inquiries, said last week that he had received nothing.

In fact, as Treasury officials acknowledge, on Mr. Salameh’s watch, most of the accounts were simply transferred to several other Lebanese banks.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

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