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International crime ring leader sentenced to more than 5 years in prison

The head of what federal prosecutors called the largest fencing operation in the area said he followed his “lust and desires” because he wanted “more wealth for his children.”

MAMOUN-A-AWWAD

MAMOUN A AWWAD

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U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary told Mamoun Awwad he didn't go about helping his family in the right way.

“Talent that you have, in my view, was wrongly used,” the judge said. “Opportunity that American citizenship was given you was wrongly used. The desire to help your family — you went about it in the wrong way.”

Judge Zouhary sentenced Awwad, 45, of Toledo, to 70 months in prison but gave him credit for the 2½ years he has spent in jail since his arrest in March, 2015.

Awwad, a native of Palestine who became a naturalized citizen in 1995, pleaded guilty July 18 to conspiracy to commit racketeering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Freeman told the court Awwad made money by exploiting the drug-addicted and the poor — offering them money for stolen electronics and other merchandise and buying electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards at half the value, then using them to stock his stores.

“Then he decided to bring in a whole host of people into this scheme to generate money,” Mr. Freeman said. “The reason why 27 other people were indicted and before this court was Mamoun Awwad.”

While four of the 28 indicted in the conspiracy remain at-large and one was found incompetent to stand trial, all of the other co-defendants have entered guilty pleas, Mr. Freeman said.

Awwad was the ringleader of the group, and Judge Zouhary said the impact of his crimes was far-reaching.

“Your intent was to help your family, but the crime itself was hurting families, eventually your own family, but also all those families who came for money, some of them for drug money, no doubt,” the judge said. “... So I also have to consider all the families impacted by your crime, and they are faceless and they are many.”

With a courtroom filled with family members and other supporters, Awwad apologized, saying he had made wrong choices.

“I want this to go forward and put it behind my back, get back to my family and do the right thing,” he said.

While the charges carried maximum sentences of 20 years in prison, federal sentencing guidelines for Awwad called for a term of 57 to 71 months.

Awwad's public defender, Donna Grill, asked for a 60-month sentence, telling the court her client was “definitely personally deterred” from committing future crime, particularly after spending more than two years in jail away from his family.

“His focus has really been that he did these things and his family suffered so he very much understands how his actions have affected many, many people,” Ms. Grill said.

Mr. Freeman said the investigation into the fencing operation began with Toledo Police who came to the FBI for help.

“They thought, from the government's perspective, that he was the largest fencing operation in the area,” Mr. Freeman said. “He was buying and selling the most stolen property in the area, and they knew it, and they just needed the resources and time commitment from the FBI in order to [make the case].”

Contact Jennifer Feehan at jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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