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Green Cove raid suspects have foreign ties

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Updated: 5/16/2013 8:31 pm

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- The three stores in a Green Cove Springs strip mall at the center of last week's raid are open now, but the owner and operator are still behind bars.

A week ago Thursday, federal agents and local deputies stormed V & J Food Store, Green Cove Wireless and a laundromat owned by Abas Issa. According to police reports, he was known as the criminal leader.

Law enforcement seized boxes of evidence and hauled off dozens of bags in the massive raid. Four of the five arrested face charges of racketeering and organized dealing in stolen property. The fifth suspect faces federal charges.

"This is a small community, Green Cove Springs, Clay County, Florida. And I don't think people are typically thinking about organized fraud, organized dealing in stolen property and racketeering," said prosecuting attorney James Colaw.

According to more than a dozen affidavits obtained by Action News reporter Ryan Smith, an undercover detective sold Issa 34,000 cigars for $3,400. Issa was under the impression they were stolen from the Swisher manufacturing plant in Jacksonville. Documents that Action News reviewed detail numerous undercover operations similar to that December 2012 exchange.

"People who are willing and express a desire to deal in stolen property no matter what that property is, I don't think there's any way you can say for certain they're going to limit those activities," said Colaw.

So where was the money going? Colaw couldn't comment but we learned the five charged do have foreign ties and traveled overseas frequently over the past year.

That's why the prosecutor is ensuring if they try to make bail, the state can keep a close eye on their whereabouts.

"If they make any bail then we wanted to make sure that they turned over their passports," said Colaw. "They need to be on electronic ankle monitors and that they showed the source for whatever funds they were going to use to post these bonds."

Abas Issa, of Orange Park, faces six counts of organized dealing in stolen property and one count of racketeering. The racketeering charge carries a $1 million bond.

Yousef Issa, of Fleming Island, faces four counts of organized dealing in stolen property and one count of racketeering.

Emad Abdulijaber, of Jacksonville, faces one count of organized dealing in stolen property. His bond is set at $100,000.

Antoun Arbaji, of Jacksonville, is facing three counts of organized dealing in stolen property and one count of racketeering.

All four will appear in court June 12 for their arraignment.

George Salameh, of Jacksonville, is being held on federal charges.

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