BROOKLYN (CN) — A Lebanese man was extradited from Malaysia to Brooklyn on Tuesday to face federal charges of being the ringleader of a high-end money counterfeit plot with ties to his mother country and Iran.
Louay Ibrahim Houssein was arrested in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia in 2014 on charges of making bogus Benjamins. On Tuesday, the 42-year-old was hauled into Brooklyn Federal Court to stand before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom. Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Levy put him on lockdown until the terms of his bond package could be hammered out.
Houssein is the subject of a "long-term undercover investigation" that went on for years. He allegedly sold thousands of dollars in counterfeit money to a Secret Service agent posing as a member of a New York-based "criminal enterprise."
He is accused of selling the agent nearly $150,000 in "high quality" fake $100 bills, and nearly $150,000 in phony euros.
Houssein tried it again in October 2013 on the island of Cyprus, to the tune of $300,000 in counterfeit currency, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.
In June 2014, his co-defendant, Nazer A-Shekh Mosa aka Mohammed Hasan Haidar, also a Syrian national, sold an undercover agent $170,000 in counterfeit money.
He was arrested, pleaded guilty in April and awaits his sentence.
A third, U.S.-based co-conspirator, Moufak Al Sababi, was arrested in August. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and got a three-year sentence.
The men were part of an "international criminal network" that sells counterfeit U.S. currency around the world, and claim to have as much as $800 million in high-quality fake money for sale to clients in Iran and elsewhere, prosecutors said.
They're also accused of offering to get weapons, drugs and fake money through U.S. ports.
"The reliability of U.S. currency is a pillar of the global financial system," U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said in announcing of the extradition. He said Houssein and his co-conspirators "exploited that reliability and threatened the stability it provides, all to serve their own greed."
Capers added: "This investigation sends the message around the world that counterfeiters, wherever located, can and will be brought to justice."
The Secret Service praised Malaysian law enforcement for their help.
"This investigation highlights the immeasurable effectiveness of law enforcement partnerships in combating fraud," FBI agent in charge David Beach said in a statement. "We will continue to work closely with our domestic and international partners to defeat criminal enterprises and protect the nation's financial infrastructure."
"Counterfeit currency doesn't just devalue authentic currency, it weakens markets and global economies," added the FBI's assistant director in charge Diego Rodriguez.
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