Feds: Weaponry concealed in furniture
A Broussard man faces federal smuggling charges for allegedly hiding guns, body armor and ammunition in a load of furniture bound for Beirut, according to court documents unsealed this week.
Federal agents detained Joseph Ali Youssef, 53, last week on a federal complaint, and he was released Wednesday after pledging his home in Le Triomphe and two lots in the Brookshire Gardens subdivision to secure a $500,000 bond.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office had initially sought to have Youssef held in jail pending trial but backed off after he made the agreement to forfeit his property should he fail to show up for court.
“Our primary concern is really the risk of flight,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Myers Namie told U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna during a court hearing Wednesday.
Myers said Youssef has another home in Beirut and has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Lebanon.
The case began April 17, when agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection found a wooden table with a secret compartment filled with ammunition and gun magazines in one of two large shipping containers linked to Youssef, according to an affidavit to support the charges filed in the court record.
A search of other furniture and household items in the containers uncovered four pistols, two rifles, a shotgun, two gun scopes, two pieces of body armor and more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition, according to the affidavit.
Federal authorities contend that some of those items require a special license for export, which Youssef did not have.
Youssef, a native of Lebanon, had booked a flight to arrive in that country around the time the shipment would have arrived, according to the affidavit.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on any aspect of the case.
Youssef’s attorney, Gerald Block, declined to discuss the specifics of the charges or to provide information on his client’s background, but he did offer a brief statement.
“Mr. Youssef is going to truthfully and fully cooperate with the government in an attempt to satisfy any concerns that the government may have,” Block said.
As part of the conditions of Youssef’s release on Wednesday, Hanna required him to surrender his passport and placed him on home detention, with exceptions for medical visits, work and meetings with his attorney.
“I’m going to watch you for a while,” Hanna said.