UPDATE: Feds: 4 people smuggled guns, ammunition to Lebanon - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATE: Feds: 4 people smuggled guns, ammunition to Lebanon

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Pizza Daddy's on 1st Avenue in Cedar Rapids. The front glass door was busted and investigators were upstairs going in and out of the back of the restaurant Tuesday morning. (Kaley Wasson, KWWL) Pizza Daddy's on 1st Avenue in Cedar Rapids. The front glass door was busted and investigators were upstairs going in and out of the back of the restaurant Tuesday morning. (Kaley Wasson, KWWL)
The front door of Pizza Daddy's on 1st Avenue in Cedar Rapids. The front glass door was busted and investigators were upstairs Tuesday morning. (Kaley Wasson, KWWL) The front door of Pizza Daddy's on 1st Avenue in Cedar Rapids. The front glass door was busted and investigators were upstairs Tuesday morning. (Kaley Wasson, KWWL)
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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - Four Cedar Rapids people are charged with purchasing 113 guns, including assault rifles, and thousands of rounds of ammunition over the past 17 months in order to smuggle them to Lebanon, according to a federal complaint Tuesday.

Bassem Afif Herz was the only defendant named in the complaint, but the complaint also says Ali Afif Al Herz, Sarah Majid Zeaiter and Adam Ben Ali Al Herz are being investigated for criminal acts.

All four appeared in federal court for their initial appearances in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday afternoon. They were charged with conspiracy to provide a container or package containing firearms and ammunition to a common carrier without notice to the shipper.

If convicted, each faces a maximum of 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years of supervised release.

According to a federal complaint Tuesday, the people purchased firearms and ammunition legally at licensed gun dealers, as well as legally ordered parts to assemble 15 AR-style assault rifles, but illegally shipped them overseas.

The total value of all firearms purchased was over $100,000, according to the complaint.

Federal officials were tipped off to the gun smuggling in February, when a firearms licensee who operates a gun store said three men and one woman had purchased a large amount of guns and ammunition. On two separate occasions, the three men also bought out the store's entire 5.7 millimeter ammunition supply.

The informant also told officials they saw the four purchase another 20 firearms at a gun show in late 2014 or early 2015.

Ali Al Herz also requested to purchase 20 collapsible butt stocks for AR-style rifles from the informant, according to the complaint.

Ali Al Herz, 50, has traveled internationally more than two dozen times, shipped a vehicle to Lebanon in 2003 and came back to the United States once in 2014 with $61,400 in cash, according to the complaint.

His son, Adam Ben Ali Al Herz, 22, has crossed the border 15 times, according to the complaint.

Bassem Herz, 29, is Ali Al Herz's brother, according to the complaint. He has also made many international trips, and records show he previously shipped "water equipment," "a bulldozer," "front-end loader" and an "SUV" to Lebanon, according to the complaint.

Zeaiter is Bassem Herz's spouse, according to the complaint.

None of the four are licensed to sell or export firearms from the Unites States, according to the complaint.

From June 2014 until February 2015, the four purchased 19 handguns and rifles from the informant. Ali Al Herz also purchased parts to assemble 15 AR-style assault rifles and took delivery of them on March 12, 2015, according to the complaint.

Other gun stores collaborating with the investigation show that the four people have, all together, purchased at least 113 firearms from retail stores, with a total value of more than $100,000.

On March 26, an outbound cargo inspection revealed 53 firearms, firearm parts and accessories as well as 6,800 round of ammunition hidden within three Bobcat skid loaders inside a container. The guns and parts were concealed inside plastic Pizza Daddy bags.

An investigation showed the container was shipped by an employee of Midamar Corporation and was headed for Beirut, Lebanon.

Based on that information, federal officials intercepted a second container and found 99 firearms, over 9,500 rounds of ammunition and various firearm parts and accessories concealed within two Bobcat skid loaders, as well as containers with clothing and household goods collected in a clothing drive to be sent to Syrian refugees.

Money from the transactions also appears to have been funneled mostly through Zeaiter's checking account, according to the complaint.

Read the full complaint here: http://ftpcontent6.worldnow.com/kwwl/NewsDocs/Complaint.pdf

Bassem Herz and Adam Al Herz were both members of a Facebook group called "Iowa guns and ammo buy sell and trade." Their membership was called into question after the story broke Tuesday.

The Facebook group has 2,900 members who are looking to buy, sell and trade firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies.

Amie Steffeneicher and Alyssa Kozak contributed to this story.
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ORIGINAL STORY:

A pizza restaurant, a halal meat processing facility and a home, all in Cedar Rapids, are at the center of a federal investigation.

Greg Buelow, spokesperson for the Cedar Rapids Police Department, says Cedar Rapids officers are participating in a federal investigation at Pizza Daddy, located at 1539 1st Avenue SE and a residence on Catskill Street SW.

Tipsters reported several different law enforcement vehicles, both city and county, at the restaurant.

The front glass door at the restaurant was busted and blocked off, and investigators were going in and out of the location from the back of the restaurant Tuesday morning.

Our crews have also seen a law enforcement presence at Midamar Corporation at 1105 60th Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids.

Midamar Corporation, a halal meat processor, was investigated in the past. Philip Payne, Jalel Aossey and William Aossey were indicted on federal charges in December.

Officials said more information about today's investigation would be released to the public Tuesday afternoon.

KWWL has a crew there and will update information as we get it.
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