Bay Area/ Oakland/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on March 30, 2024
Oakland Man Sentenced for Illegally Attempting to Export Arms and Night Vision Tech to OmanSource: Google Street View

A California man from Oakland is heading to the slammer after playing a high-stakes game with U.S. national security. Fares Abdo Al Eyani, 41, has been sentenced to one year and a day in prison for his audacious plot to smuggle firearms and night-vision rifle scopes to Oman. The failed smuggling attempt not only put Al Eyani on the wrong side of the law but also highlighted the ongoing battle against the illegal arms trade.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen didn't mince words when describing the consequences of Al Eyani's actions. "The unlawful trafficking of U.S. weapons overseas represents a threat to public safety and national security and will be met with the full force of the Justice Department," Olsen said. U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey emphasized the need for controlling the nation's ports to protect national security and maintain business competitiveness, according to a statement on the Justice Department's website. The sentence of Al Eyani underscores the feds' no-tolerance policy towards those who threaten America's safety from within its borders.

Illuminating the gravity of these offenses, Tatum King, Special Agent in Charge of HSIs San Francisco, outlined the high stakes involved. "Such actions not only pose significant risks to national security but also contribute to destabilizing regions and potentially fueling conflicts," King stated. Indeed, the thwarted plot exposed a dark underground of arms trafficking that law enforcement remains committed to disrupting.

The plot unraveled back in 2019 when Al Eyani scooped up at least four firearms, complete with magazines and ammunition, as well as 44 high-tech rifle scopes, monoculars, and goggles enhancing night vision. Court documents reveal a sneaky method of concealment—disassembling firearms, wrapping them in aluminum foil, and hiding them within vehicles in shipping containers bound for the Sultanate of Oman. However, diligent law enforcement officials spotted the ruse, seizing the weapons before they could depart from the Port of Oakland. The failure of Al Eyani's scheme showcased the sophistication of U.S. law enforcement techniques in catching such high-tech smuggling operations before they could escalate.

Not confined to Al Eyani, the ripple effects of the investigation also reached his wife, Saba Mohsen Dhaifallah, 42 and from Oakland. Dhaifallah received a sentence of three years of probation for making false statements to FBI special agents during the investigation. The FBI, HSI, and CBP's united front in the investigation demonstrates the collaborative effort required to maintain a lid on illegal arms exports.

At the heart of the case is the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), which strictly govern the export of defense articles and services from the U.S. Items such as those Al Eyani attempted to sneak out of the country can't leave U.S. soil without explicit permission from the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. Al Eyani's failure to secure the necessary licenses for his cargo earned him more than a slap on the wrist—specifically, a 365-day stay in a federal penitentiary.

The case, now closed with sentencing, was looked after by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California’s National Security and Cybercrime Section, which leaned on guidance from the National Security Division's Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.