SANTA ANA – An Orange County businessman accused of illegally exporting rifle scopes and other tactical equipment to Syria was arrested Tuesday and charged with smuggling and violating international sanctions.
A federal grand jury, in an indictment unsealed Tuesday, alleges that Rasheed Al Jijakli, 56, of Walnut hand-carried tactical equipment to fighters in Syria.
According to the indictment, Jijakli is a Syrian-born naturalized U.S. citizen who serves as the chief executive officer, chief financial officer, vice president, secretary and treasurer of Palmyra Corporation, a check-cashing business in Orange County.
Among the items prosecutors allege that Jijakli provided to Syrian fighters are rifle scopes, laser bore sighters used to adjust sights on firearms, radios and bulletproof vests.
The indictment does not specify to which faction in the Syrian civil war the fighters Jijakli is accused of dealing with are aligned.
According to the Department of Justice, exporting the equipment would be a violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, under which the government prohibits “certain transactions with Syria by United States persons or involving U.S.-origin goods.”
An executive order in 2004 prohibits the exportation of any U.S. product to Syria except for food and medicine, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that Jijakli – along with three others only identified as “co-conspirators” – got the tactical equipment from unnamed businesses in California, Arizona, Arkansas and Washington.
According to the indictment, one of the “unindicted co-conspirators” in January of 2012 communicated with someone in Syria, offering to help buy them items such as rifle scopes and weapon-conversion kits and offering to bring the items to Turkey.
Over the next several months, the indictment alleges that Jijakli and the others ordered the tactical equipment from the U.S.-based companies. In July 2012, prosecutors allege, Jijakli boarded a flight to Turkey.
Several days later, according to the indictment, Jijakli allegedly arrived in Syria with the smuggled equipment. The indictment alleges that upon his return, Jijakli told one of the unindicted co-conspirators that his trip to Syria “was ‘not too much fun,” because he was unable to “join with (sic) some action.”
The indictment alleges that Jijakli said of the “rebel group” he is accused of meeting in Syria that “they were tough fighters and that they…