Arrest in Plot to Smuggle Rifle Scopes & Tactical Equipment to Syria

The chief executive officer of an Orange County check-cashing business was arrested Tuesday morning on federal charges for allegedly procuring and illegally exporting rifle scopes, laser boresighters, and other tactical equipment from the United States to Syria in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

Rasheed Al Jijakli, 56, of Walnut, is expected to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court on a three-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury July 14. The indictment was unsealed Tuesday following Jijakli’s arrest.

The case is the result of an ongoing investigation by the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement, and IRS Criminal Investigation.

The indictment accuses Jijakli of violating IEEPA, which authorizes the president to impose economic sanctions on a foreign country in response to an unusual or extraordinary threat to national security, foreign policy, or the economy of the United States.

In accordance with that authority, the president issued an executive order that included broad restrictions on exports to Syria.

The Department of Commerce subsequently issued corresponding regulations restricting exports to Syria of items subject to the Export Administration Regulations.

From January 2012 through March 2013, Jijakli and three other individuals purchased and smuggled export-controlled items to Syria without obtaining licenses from the Department of Commerce.

The defendant and others allegedly hand-carried the items through Istanbul, Turkey, and provided them to fighters in Syria.

Those items allegedly included day and night-vision rifle scopes, laser boresighters (tools used to adjust sights on firearms for accuracy when firing), flashlights, radios, a bulletproof vest, and other tactical equipment.

Jijakli also faces charges of conspiring to violate IEEPA and smuggling.  If he is convicted of all three charges in the indictment, Jijakli would face a statutory maximum penalty of 50 years in prison.

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

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The case against Jijakli is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Takla of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section and Trial Attorney Christian Ford of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.