The news from Tulsa

I’ve been in Tulsa all week. The local news is full of a story I would otherwise have missed: “Terror suit spurs search at car dealershership.” Check this out:

A Tulsa used car dealership was searched Friday by federal and local law enforcement agents in connection with an international scheme that has allegedly funneled $483 million through terrorist-controlled channels to Lebanon since January 2007.

Ace Auto Leasing, 5717 E. 11th St., is one of about 30 U.S. car buyers along with several other entities accused of facilitating the arrangement, according to a civil lawsuit filed Thursday in the U.S. Southern District of New York.

The lawsuit alleges that Ace Auto received about $20.2 million from Hezbollah members or Hezbollah-controlled entities to purchase and ship used cars.

Hezbollah is a Lebanon-based terrorist organization responsible for some of the most deadly anti-U.S. attacks dating to 1983. The group was formed in 1982 after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. It has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, a Specially Designated Terrorist and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

Agents from the FBI, Tulsa Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration searched the Ace Auto Leasing lot, writing down automobile vehicle identification numbers.

Officers involved were from the joint terrorism task force, which combines the efforts of several law enforcement agencies, and the auto-theft unit of the Tulsa Police, said Officer Jason Willingham.

Jerika Richardson, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the southern New York district, said no arrests were made or expected in the searches held across the country. “This is a civil action,” she said. “It is not criminal … All we have at this time is a civil action.”

Records maintained by the state Tax Commission indicate Mohamad K. Soukieh is the only officer associated with the corporation Ace Auto Leasing Inc. of Tulsa.

Tulsa County assessor records indicate property utilized as a used car lot in the 5700 block of East 11th Street was purchased by Mohamad K and Daad Soukieh in 2002. Adjacent property and land was purchased in 2005 and 2007.

Like Bill Ayers in the Chicago Tribune story featured in a nearby post, Soukieh could not be reached for comment. There is more to the story with the Tulsa angle, and you may want to check out the whole thing.

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