Feds: Hezbollah Cell in N.C.

A Hezbollah "cell" in Charlotte provided material support and resources, including cash and equipment, to the Islamic militant group Hezbollah, federal prosecutors alleged today.

An indictment handed down by a federal grand jury charged four people with conspiring to provide the Lebanon-based group with cash, night vision goggles, global positioning devices, mine detection equipment, cell phones and blasting equipment.

The indictment does not allege that they provided weapons.

"We hope to send a clear message that North Carolina, the United States and Canada are off-limits for illegal funding and procurement activities by individuals or organizations that support terrorism," said Chris Swecker, special agent in charge of the FBI's Charlotte office.

Last summer, the same grand jury indicted 18 people on charges of cigarette smuggling, money laundering and immigration violations. Six have pleaded guilty to immigration law violations and charges are pending against the remaining 12.

The indictment handed down Wednesday names six new defendants, none of whom is in custody. Three are accused of aiding Hezbollah and the other three face charges including cigarette smuggling and money laundering.

Profits from Cigarette Sales?

The three accused of helping Hezbollah were identified as Ali Adham Amhaz and Mohamad Hassan Dbouk, last reported to be living in Vancouver, and Hassan Hilu Laqis, whose last address was unknown.

The fourth man, Said Mohamad Harb, is among the group charged in July and has been held without bond in federal custody since then.

The government contends that Mohamad Youssef Hammoud, named in the original indictment, led a Charlotte-based group of Lebanese immigrants who bought cases of cigarettes in North Carolina, which has a low cigarette tax, and sold them at a profit in other states.

Prosecutors said the group diverted some of its profits to Hezbollah, a Lebanese-based faction that has been named by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

Today's indictment, which supercedes the one issued in July, means a total of 24 people have been named in 77 charges related to cigarette smuggling, immigration violations and aiding Hezbollah.