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Post date: March 26 2015

A.G. Schneiderman & NYPD Commissioner Bratton Announce Guilty Pleas In Worldwide Khat Trafficking Ring

Three Lead Defendants Plead Guilty For Their Role In Funneling Several Tons Of Khat Across Four Continents, Distributing The Drug Across New York And Other States

Joint Effort With NYPD And Other Law Enforcement Agencies Leads To First New York State Prison Sentences For Khat Dealers

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner William J. Bratton today announced three guilty pleas in a worldwide khat trafficking ring that flooded New York City, as well as other parts of New York, Massachusetts, and Ohio, with several tons of khat, a plant containing controlled substances similar to amphetamines. Today’s guilty pleas by the drug ring’s three leaders mark the first time in New York that khat dealers will serve time in New York state prison.

Last summer, Attorney General Schneiderman and Commissioner Bratton announced the indictment of 17 members of a khat trafficking ring. The 215-count Brooklyn indictment charged that the defendants operated as Major Traffickers who worked together to obtain khat from Yemen, Kenya and Ethiopia; ship it to the United States through countries including the United Kingdom, China, The Netherlands, and Belgium; and trafficked it in the New York, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo metropolitan areas, as well as communities in Massachusetts and Ohio. The ring then laundered the illicit proceeds through operatives in Minnesota and wired the money to various locations abroad, including Dubai and England.

“Khat is a dangerous and illegal drug with worldwide reach. As a result of this international takedown, a sophisticated operation accused of bringing drugs into the United States and sending the illicit profits overseas, has been shut down and the ringleaders are headed to prison,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Today’s guilty pleas demonstrate that those who flood our national and state borders with drugs will be brought to justice.”

"I want to thank all of the agencies involved in this complex investigation for their unwavering commitment in targeting criminal networks like these, and in doing so, stopping the flow of illegal drugs from hitting our streets and compromising the safety and well-being of our communities," said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton.

As part of the plea agreements, Yadeta Berki (a.k.a. “Murad”), 24, of the United Kingdom, will be sentenced to three years in state prison and will forfeit $150,000; Bayan Yusuf, 32, of Rochester, will be sentenced to two years in state prison; and Ahmed Adem, 32, of Rochester, will be sentenced to two years in state prison. All three defendants pleaded guilty to Attempted Operating as a Major Trafficker.

Khat is a plant cultivated largely in Kenya and Ethiopia. Among its active ingredients are cathinone, a stimulant classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the New York State Public Health Law, and cathine, which is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance. Users of khat chew the leaves and stems of the plant and swallow the juice to create a high.

As part of the investigation, state and local law enforcement agents led by the New York State Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the NYPD’s Intelligence Division conducted a nearly year-long investigation. The indictment alleges that England-based defendant Yadeta Bekri, known to his co-conspirators as “Murad,” systematically shipped large quantities of khat to his U.S.-based partners, Bayan Yusuf and Ahmed Adem, through multiple U.P.S. stores located in Manhattan. Yusuf and Adem, both of Rochester, NY, would then allegedly deliver the khat to their distributors and direct customers based in Brooklyn, Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo, as well as Everett, Massachusetts.

Surveillance conducted as part of the investigation revealed that the defendants used public storage facilities in Rochester, Queens and Brooklyn to store large quantities of khat until they were able to distribute the drugs.

At Bekri’s direction, Yusuf and Adem allegedly transported the proceeds of these illegal sales by car to Bekri’s fiancée and co-conspirator Ibsitu Hashi in Minnesota who, in turn, sent the money back to Bekri via Dubai and other countries.

In addition to the Attorney General’s Office and the New York City Police Department, the New York State Police, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, and United States Customs and Border Protection all assisted in the investigation.

The indictment charged 17 co-conspirators with crimes including Operating as a Major Trafficker and various counts of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, Money Laundering and Conspiracy to commit those crimes. The indictment represents the first time that the controlled substances found in khat have been the subject of the Operating as a Major Trafficker statute (§220.77(1) of the Penal Law of the State of New York), authored by Attorney General Schneiderman as part of changes to the Rockefeller-era drug laws.

The defendants charged last year included:

  • Yadeta Bekri (a.k.a. “Murad”), 24, of the United Kingdom
  • Bayan Yusuf, 32, of Rochester
  • Ahmed Adem, 32, of Rochester
  • Mustafa Sadeq Ali, 22, of Brooklyn
  • Sadeq Hassan Ali, 46, of Brooklyn
  • Noman Saleh Almoflehi, 22, of Brooklyn
  • Ahmed Khader Sulaiman, 25, of Brooklyn
  • Al Khader Sulaiman, 29, of Brooklyn
  • Wail Seidi, 22, of Queens
  • Nabil Seidi, 36, of Queens
  • Mohamed Seidi, 26, of Queens
  • Abubaker Seidi, 39, of Queens
  • Ali Saleh, 40, of Rochester
  • Mohamed Mohamed, 43, of Rochester
  • Rumiya Osman, 31, of Rochester
  • Malyun Ibrahim, 46, of Everett, Massachusetts
  • Ibsitu Hashi, 35, of Blaine, Minnesota

The investigation was directed by OCTF Investigator Brian Fleming and Supervising Investigator Arthur Schwartz, OCTF Deputy Chief Christopher Vasta and Investigations Bureau Chief Dominick Zarrella in the Attorney General’s office, and by NYPD Detective Milton Lopez, Sergeant Scott Mackay and Lieutenant Joseph Sullivan of the Intelligence Division and Deputy Inspector Paul Mauro. The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Deputy Bureau Chief Tarek Rahman, with the assistance of OCTF Analyst Nicole Accurso, under the supervision of OCTF Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice is Kelly Donovan.

The charges against the remaining defendants are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

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