US Attorney Reports Three Members Of Khat Trafficking Ring Sentenced

LAWFUEL – US Legal Newswire – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York, announced that ALI AWAD, ABDI EMIL
MOGE, and ABDULLAHI HUSSEIN were sentenced this morning in
Manhattan federal court for charges relating to the trafficking
of khat, an African plant containing a controlled substance known
as cathinone. The three defendants were found guilty of the
charges at trial earlier this year; AWAD and MOGE were convicted
of conspiring to import and distribute khat, and HUSSEIN was
convicted of conspiring to distribute khat. MOGE was also
convicted of conspiring to launder the cash proceeds of khat
distribution. Today, United States District Judge DENISE L. COTE
sentenced AWAD, MOGE, and HUSSEIN to terms of imprisonment of 121
months, 121 months, and 12 months, respectively. According to
the evidence at trial:

AWAD and MOGE were among the leaders and organizers of
an international network that extended from the Horn of Africa —
where khat plants are grown — through Western Europe, to New
York City. From New York, the khat plants were distributed
throughout the United States and ultimately sold to users in
various cities across the country, including Minneapolis,
Minnesota; Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Maine; Boston,
Massachusetts; Washington, D.C.; Seattle, Washington; and Salt
Lake City, Utah. AWAD and MOGE imported large shipments of khat
every week, with an aggregate weight in the tons. The khat was
regularly imported in express mail packages that were falsely
described as containing “documents” or “children’s toys,” or with
the assistance of couriers who carried khat into the United
States on commercial flights.

In a post-arrest statement that was introduced at
trial, AWAD, who had been in the khat business since 1999,
compared the khat trade to cocaine trafficking, and lamented that
khat had devastated Somalia, as well as Somali communities within
the United States. The Court also imposed as part of AWAD’s
sentence a forfeiture order in the amount of $10,000,000.
MOGE had been involved in the illegal khat trade for at
least seven years, predominantly by paying Western European
couriers to smuggle suitcases filled with khat on commercial
flights from London to the United States. MOGE’s illegal
business generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit
cash, which he laundered through “hawalas” –- money remitting
networks commonly used in parts of Africa and the Middle East.
With the proceeds of his drug business, MOGE purchased an
expensive home, a BMW, and other luxury items, while also sending
hundreds of thousands of dollars to his khat suppliers in Europe.
As part of MOGE’s sentence, Judge COTE also imposed an order of
forfeiture in the amount of approximately $4.6 million.

HUSSEIN was a retail seller of khat in Portland, Maine,
where he tried to recruit Americans (two of whom were undercover
law enforcement officers) as couriers who would travel abroad and
smuggle khat into the United States. During the sentencing,
Judge COTE noted that HUSSEIN was a “low level drug dealer” who
tried to be a “bigger player” in the khat trade. Judge COTE
sentenced HUSSEIN to the statutory maximum she found applicable
to his offense, 12 months. A forfeiture order of $400,000 was
also imposed as part of HUSSEIN’s sentence.

In sentencing AWAD and MOGE to 121 months’
imprisonment, Judge COTE stated that they had both participated
for years in the illegal khat trade on a “massive scale,” and
that, among other things, the interest of general deterrence
would be served with these sentences.

Since July 2006, approximately forty members of this
network have been arrested on narcotics charges. Thirteen have
pleaded guilty and three have been found guilty at trial. Trials
of the remaining defendants in this case are scheduled for
November 2007 and March 2008.

The successful dismantling of this organization was the
result of a coordinated, nationwide investigation led by the
Office’s International Narcotics Trafficking Unit, and agents and
officers of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration,
the New York City Police Department, the United States Internal
Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, the Department
of Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), the New
York State Police, the United States Marshals Service, the United
States Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosives, all working together as part of the
Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force in New York City.

Mr. GARCIA thanked these agents and officers for their
outstanding efforts, and also acknowledged the critical
contributions of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, the
Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, and the Nassau County Police

Assistant United States Attorneys DANIEL L. STEIN,
ANJAN SAHNI, and SEETHA RAMACHANDRAN are in charge of the
07-240 ###

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