Lebanese immigrant convicted in extensive Houston-based stolen goods scheme

March 4, 2013 3:38:13 PM PST
A Lebanese immigrant could face decades in prison following his conviction Monday in a Houston-based scheme that used illegal immigrants to steal over-the-counter medicines, baby formula, and health and beauty supplies from retailers.

Federal prosecutors said the operation run by Sameh Khaled Danhach repackaged the stolen items, sold them for a fraction of their value and shipped them to "fences" around the nation who then resold the items for a profit.

Samech, who prosecutors described as a legal permanent U.S. resident living in Houston, was convicted of six counts of interstate transportation of stolen goods, conspiracy to transport stolen goods and obstruction of justice.

A jury at the five-day trial before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake deliberated only an hour Monday before returning the guilty verdicts. Lake set sentencing for April 25.

Danhach faces up to five years for the one count of conspiracy to transport stolen merchandise in interstate commerce, up to 10 years on each of the three convictions for transporting stolen merchandise and up to 20 years for each of the two obstruction of justice counts. He also could be fined $250,000, be stripped of his permanent residence status and be deported.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson said the scheme operated from August 2008 to February 2012 and targeted major retail chains like Target, Wal-Mart, CVS and Walgreens.

Evidence showed Danhach employed illegal immigrants from Central and South America to steal the items. It showed he rented cars for them to travel around the country and ship the items to his warehouse in Houston using fraudulent FedEx accounts.

One witness testified he delivered some $230,000 worth of items to Danhach's warehouse that had been stolen from Wal-Mart stores in Texas over seven months.

A witness for FedEx testified that some 29 fraudulent unpaid shipping accounts tied to Danhach's operation cost the shipping company $540,000.

Evidence at the trial included ledgers kept by Danhach that recorded the shipments. They were seized when the warehouse was raided March 1, 2012.

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