Drug Enforcement Administration agents have raided an Oklahoma car dealership that the government suspects may be one of about 30 such businesses in the U.S. involved in funding the terrorist group Hezbollah.
DEA agents say the car lot of Ace Auto Leasing in Tulsa is part of a huge network that is selling cars and drugs -- and then using the money to support terrorism against the U.S., myfoxphoenix.com reports.
During Friday's raid, agents could be seen carryout out filing cabinets and other items. They also questioned employees and took inventory.
"They're making big time money and it's going right into weapons acquisition, terrorist training, recruiting, corruption. Things needed to carry out terrorist attacks across the world," said Rusty Payne of the DEA. "Some of that money is flowing back to the United States, back to these used car companies, to purchase more used cars to ship them to West Africa to sell those at a profit and then mix those used car proceeds in with the drug dollars."
The U.S. government says Lebanese financial institutions wired more than $300 million into our country. It was all part of a money laundering scheme that included 30 car dealerships like Ace Auto. DEA Agent Derek Maltz told ABC’s KTUL-TV that the wired money would go to these car dealerships to buy used cars.
"The used cars being purchased in the United States are being shipped into West Africa and they are making 15, 20, 25 percent profit and the proceeds are all being sent back into Lebanon and Hezbollah is benefiting," Maltz told the station.
"We do not have detailed specific information on what these car dealership owners knew; we will investigate it jointly with our partners in the United States and hopefully we will shut them down," says Maltz.
Payne adds, "What's happening, though, is the amounts are so large that it raised red flags among investigators. There's no way the used car industry in the US and West Africa could produce these kinds of revenues."