DEA probing 8 Michigan used-car dealers; Did they help fund terror organizations?

NEW YORK (WXYZ) - Drug kingpins in Lebanon have been working in concert with terrorist organizations to funnel money into the US, according to a complaint filed by the US Attorney in New York's Southern District, and that money has been used to buy used cars from 30 dealerships across the country.

Eight of those dealerships are located here in Michigan. Those vehicles were shipped to West Africa where they were sold for cash, and the profits from those sales, according to the US attorney's complaint, went to support terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.

"We're interviewing the different car dealership owners," said DEA Special Agent Derek Maltz, who spoke to ABC's Brian Ross.

"We're serving them with restraining orders.  There are 30 businesses in the United States being  served restraining orders. And we're also serving over 60 banks in the United States, bank accounts with these orders as well," he said.

Agents started serving those restraining orders today, effectively freezing the dealerships' assets.  The dealerships include A & J Auto Sales in Lansing, Eagle Auto Sales in Dearborn Heights, United Auto Enterprize in Redford, and Detroit companies United Quality Auto Sales, Auto Rama, Global Shipping Services, H and D Export and Import and HH Automotive. 

Maltz says it's not yet clear if any of these dealerships knew if their car sales were helping to aide terrorist groups, as the government alleges. 

"It's an active investigation we do not have specific detailed information on what these particular car dealership owners knew. We will investigate it jointly with our partners in the United States and hopefully we'll shut them down," said Maltz.

A DEA spokesman tells 7 Action News that the agency's investigation is ongoing. He adds that it's entirely possible that some of these dealerships are unaware of who they were selling cars to, and just where the money was going. 

If you have a tip for the 7 Action News Investigative Team, contact us at tips@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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