Four members of a Cedar Rapids family are charged in an international gun-smuggling case.
The four allegedly packed shipping containers of relief supplies headed for the Middle East with more than 150 guns and 16,000 bullets, bound for Beirut, Lebanon.
Federal agents conducted searches at several locations, including homes and businesses. This passerby, Chad Hill, told KCRG TV that he saw the raid taking place early Tuesday at Pizza Daddy, which is reportedly owned by one of the family members.
“It was 6 in the morning and I went to Hy-Vee on 1st Avenue and looked across the street and saw a black truck and saw about 13 people in Kevlar and with big automatic rifles,” Hill says. “That’s not normal for here in Cedar Rapids.”
Another business that was searched was Midamar Corporation in Cedar Rapids. Mike Lahammer is an attorney for the company, which was hired to ship the containers overseas.
“There are no allegations that any of the officers or any employees of Midamar had any knowledge that firearms or ammunition was contained in the containers,” Lahammer says. “Midamar has companies contract with them to utilize their shipping facilities to ship their own products and those companies that contract with Midamar are responsible for the contents.”
Two of the four suspects arrested on Tuesday allegedly bought guns from an Iowa City store. Michael Gerot is the co-owner of Ammo Bearer and says the suspects had “a wad of cash” and bought guns in-house, in addition to having other guns special-ordered. Two of the guns cost $1,500 each. “The guns that they bought were expensive, but they’re not something somebody carries around all the time,” Gerot says. “I wondered why they were special ordering guns from me when, how many gun dealers are there in Cedar Rapids?”
The four suspects are identifed as: 50-year-old Ali Herz; his brother, 29-year-old Bassem Herz; his son, 22-year-old Adam Herz and 24-year-old Sarah Zeaiter, the wife of Bassem Herz.
Each is charged with conspiracy and delivering a package to a carrier without notice it contained firearms and ammunition. Federal authorities say the group plotted to hide supplies of weapons and bullets bound for Beirut, Lebanon among boxes of goods collected in a clothing drive.