CLEVELAND (WJW) — A Saudi Arabian national living in Cleveland Heights is charged with exporting or attempting to export dozens of rifle barrels from the United States since April.
Abdulrahman Zalah, 30, was indicted last week by a federal grand jury on a charge of smuggling or attempting to smuggle more than 50 rifle barrels from the United States. All the barrels were for automatic and semi-automatic weapons and chambered in .50 caliber and smaller, according to his indictment.
Zalah, who is currently living in the state on a visa while seeking a post-graduate education, ordered several rifle barrels from manufacturers and on eBay, according to a press release. He then sent those barrels to people living overseas, contacting them through social media, according to his probable cause affidavit, written by a Department of Homeland Security customs agent.
The person Zalah identified as a buyer — to whom Zalah allegedly sent about a dozen gun parts — directed him to buy the barrels from certain manufacturers or websites, then delivered funds to Zalah’s bank account. He often used that person’s email address for the purchases. He then labeled the goods as “camera stand” when shipping, since he was told it was illegal to purchase rifle barrels overseas, according to the affidavit.
Authorities allege Zalah didn’t have the government-issued export license needed to export commodities like firearms and firearm components under the Export Control Reform Act and the Export Administration Regulations. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security regulates the re-exportation of commodities like firearms and the release of U.S. technology to foreign nationals living in the country.
It was one of the rifle-makers who alerted authorities to Zalah’s buying habits, authorities said.
“[The manufacturer] stated that based on typical customer ordering behavior, it was odd that a person not employed as a gunsmith would purchase more than one barrel,” reads Zalah’s affidavit.
Authorities searched Zalah’s apartment, with his consent, on Oct. 28 and found several long, rectangular packages “in plain view” on the floor of his living room. Zalah said he sells barrels on eBay “and nowhere else.” But his eBay activity suggested he only purchased rifles, rather than sold them — to which he later admitted.
Zalah is set to be arraigned before Cleveland federal Judge John Adams on Tuesday afternoon.