FRESNO, Calif. – Three men accused of trying to obtain secret defense information and stolen military equipment to send to Yemen were indicted Thursday, federal prosecutors said.
The men, all born in Yemen but now U.S. citizens, face conspiracy charges.
"The fact that they were seeking to acquire information and send it to a foreign country is very serious," said Carl Faller, an assistant U.S. attorney in Fresno. "We've interrupted a group that was very interested in buying information and military items."
The two-year investigation began when Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials tipped the FBI off about a shipment of chemical suits and body armor from Long Beach to Yemen. The shipment was traced to Ibrahim A. Omer, 40, of Fort Worth, Texas, officials said.
Omer planned with Amen Ahmed Ali, 56, to send the items to Yemen, which is illegal without authorization from the U.S. Department of State, federal prosecutors said. It is not unlawful to own the equipment and permits to ship them abroad are available.
The undercover agent later told the men he could get them stolen Army equipment and provided Ali with documents, prosecutors said. Faller said he could not comment on what type of information was in the documents because the case is still under investigation.
In a sting operation, Ali received what he believed to be secret defense documents from an undercover U.S. agent and sent them to his native country by fax or courier on several occasions since last year, federal prosecutors said.
Ali was arrested at his cigarette shop in Bakersfield about 110 miles north of Los Angeles on Thursday. Omer was arrested in Bossier City, La. Both were scheduled to appear in court on Friday.
Mohamed Al-Rahimi, 62, of Bakersfield, was indicted for traveling to Yemen to broker the sale of the military equipment. He remains at large.
If convicted, the men could face up to 10 years in prison for each count and up to $1 million fines. It was unclear whether the men had hired attorneys.