ATF

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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Our History

Terrorism

Operation Sphinx

The Crime and Investigation

Diaa Moshen was an arms trafficker with connections to terrorist and organized crime groups around the world. A confidential informant introduced Moshen to an undercover ATF Agent. Moshen explained to the Agent that he wished to acquire U.S. stinger missiles on behalf of a Pakistani intermediary, who planned to transfer the missiles to the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. Other countries were also mentioned as possible recipients. A long-term, sensitive undercover investigation exposed ties between U.S. citizens and money laundering through cooperative foreign banks. As a result, this cased produced important leads regarding the funding of terrorist activities, prompting the U.S. Customs Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation to join the investigation.

 

 

Wall Street Connection

Kevin Ingram, a high-level bond trader and mortgage broker, laundered money in the Moshen case. His July 2001 arrest probably saved his life. He was in jail during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 - and not in his office on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center.

Irish Republican Army

The Arrest and Adjudication

In 1998, Connor Claxton and Siobhan Brown conspired to illegally purchase over $100,000 in firearms and ammunition in four states. A licensed firearms dealer facilitated off the books sales to the conspirators. Claxton had removed all the serial numbers and secretly shipped the firearms to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland for use against law enforcement and military resources in that country.

ATF had already initiated an investigation of Claxton when British authorities intercepted one of his parcels in 1999. Claxton was ultimately deemed responsible for sending 24 parcels containing 126 firearms into Northern Ireland. Secret codes and contact names stashed in a hotel room showed that known Belfast IRA members had funded the operation. The U.S. Postal Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation, while British and Irish law enforcement agencies provided valuable expertise and support.

 

Mourad Topalian

The Crime and Investigation

A 1996 ATF investigation of decaying dynamite, detonation cord and blasting caps found in an Ohio storage locker, let to Mourad Topalian and the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide (JCAG). JCAG was reportedly responsible for numerous bombings and murders of Turkish Officials in the United States and Canada. This investigation helped to unravel JCAG related bombings in California; Philadelphia; Pennsylvania; New York City, New York; and the original theft of the dynamite stolen from Kalkaska, Michigan, in 1976.

 

 

Irish Republican Army

The Arrest and Adjudication

Five suspects were arrested in 2000 and later convicted on carious federal firearms charges. During the arrests, Agents recovered an additional 45 firearms. During four days of court testimony, Claxton admitted to being an IRA soldier sent to the United States for the purpose of acquiring firearms. The defendants received six defendants in Northern Ireland were charged and later convicted of firearms and smuggling-related violations.

 

 

Mourad Topalian

The Arrest and Adjudication

ATF’s three year investigation, assisted by the Bedford (Ohio) Police Department, culminated in the arrest of Mourad Topalian, a college vice president and chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America. Topalian, linked to the overall contents of the storage unit, pled guilty to possession of stolen explosives and possession of automatic firearms. At sentencing, he was given an upward enhancement for knowing the stolen explosives would be used in a bombing.

 

 

Operation Sphinx

The Arrest and Adjudication

Moshen and four collaborators were arrested in July 2001 on federal charges of conspiracy, Arms Export Control Act violations and money laundering. They pled guilty to various charges and received sentences of 18 to 30 months imprisonment. ATF also seized $185,000 in assets from Kevin Ingram, the defendant involved in money laundering.

 

 

(1) Stinger Missle: An example of the type of weapon Moshen sought to acquire from the undercover Agents.

(2) Dynamite Sticks (Replica): Insert replicas of the stolen dynamite found 20 years later in an Ohio storage locker.