RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – The Justice Department announced indictments of three men who illegally smuggled rifle parts from the United States to Saudi Arabia and tried to pass the items off as shower curtain rods or car parts.
All three men are Saudi nationals who were in the U.S. on student visas. They were charged with violating federal export laws by purchasing more than $100,000 in gun parts and one of the men faces charges for violating the Arms Export Control Act.
The men are still believed to be in Saudi Arabia, according to the DOJ.
On Wednesday, a federal grand jury in the California Central District in Riverside returned a five-count indictment against Hatim Alsufyani, 36, and Mosab Alzahrani, 27, both formerly of San Bernardino. They were charged with one count of conspiracy to smuggle goods out of the U.S. without an export license. Alsufyani was charged with three counts of knowingly exporting weapon parts without a license and Alzahrani was charged with one of the same counts.
From May 2014 to July 2018, Alsufyani and Alzahrani planned to smuggle the parts from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia by hiding rifle barrels, rifle triggers and other items in their luggage as they passed through airport security, according to prosecutors.
In December 2016, Alzahrani tried to get on an airplane from Los Angeles to Riyahd with 30 parts in his checked luggage, including 12 rear sight leaf assemblies and six New England Custom Gun single set rifle triggers, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said he lied to customs officials about having those rifle barrels.
In other instances, the two men claimed the weapons parts were shower curtain rods, car parts, baby toys or other miscellaneous objects, according to the DOJ.
A Twitter account with the same handle as Alsufyani’s Instagram account shows rifle barrels aimed at animal carcasses and other hunting gear in a mountainous region.
In a 15-page indictment, prosecutors said Alsufyani advertised numerous rifle parts on his Instagram account with hashtags for locations in Saudi Arabia.
Alsufyani posted to his Instagram on May 7, 2014 a photo of a specific riflescope with a watermark for his user account. He commented to another user, “Its price is 3,000.”
According to the indictment, he also placed numerous weapons parts on backorder and posted a photo of an Evolution Gunworks Mauser 98 large rifle 3-Hole scope base and wrote to a potential customer on his Instagram account, “may God reward you with paradise, could you communicate with me on WhatsApp?”
In another Instagram post, Alsufyani posted a photo of another weapons part that reads in part, “the sale has been completed.”
Alzahrani lied to customers officials when he said he did not have any weapons at his home in San Bernardino, but prosecutors said he had multiple rifle barrels that he intended to smuggle to Saudi Arabia.
Prosecutors said Alsufyani purchased rifle barrels, triggers and other parts from six separate gun retailers in the U.S., and along with three other unindicted co-conspirators, received the parts at homes throughout the country.
In a separate indictment returned Nov. 1, Abdulwahab Mohammed A. Alabdulwahab, 30, formerly of Los Angeles, was charged with 15 counts of smuggling and 15 counts of knowingly exporting firearms parts without first getting an export license.
From December 2015 to January 2018, Abdulwahab purchased .223-caliber and .308-caliber rifle barrels from U.S.-based firearms retailers. At no time while he communicated with retailers through website portals, emails and in telephone calls did he attempt to get the proper licenses for exporting said parts, according to the indictment that was unsealed on Wednesday.
Abdulwahab also mislabeled the items as he smuggled the items, prosecutors said. He identified them as car axles, according to a 7-page indictment.
If convicted, Abdulwahab could face 30 years in federal prison and Alsuyani could face 65 years, while Alzahrani could face 25 years in prison, according to the DOJ.