VIENNA, VA — A Vienna, Virginia resident who is Lebanese American pleaded guilty Monday in a money laundering scheme tied to the terrorist group Hizballah.
Prosecutors say Racha Farhat, 44, laundered money as part of a decade-long scheme to ship electronics equipment to a Hizballah-owned television station in Lebanon. She and her husband also pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit tax fraud by concealing income from her employment in Virginia.
The money laundering began in 2010 and continued until her February 2021 arrest, according to court documents. Farhat received money from a co-conspirator in Lebanon and used the money to buy electronics equipment in the U.S. She shipped items purchased by herself and other co-conspirators primarily to Lebanon. The co-conspirator in Lebanon provided $175,000 worth of goods to Al Manar TV, a television station owned and operated by Hizballah. https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=3533
The Lebanon-based Shia group Hizballah is identified as a foreign terrorist organization by the federal government. Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, people in the U.S. are prohibited from conducting business with Hizballah and Al Manar TV.
“For over a decade, Racha Farhat participated in a conspiracy to purchase electronics equipment using the proceeds of illegal activity, which benefited a Lebanese television station owned by Hizballah,” said Raj Parekh, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Working with our law enforcement partners, we will bring to justice those who use the U.S. financial system to further the interests of prohibited entities that engage in unlawful activities abroad.”
The co-conspirator in Lebanon used various methods to conceal the money sent to Farhat. Farhat received over $1 million in wire transfers from Lebanon as well as nearly $80,000 worth of money orders purchased in a way to evade identification reporting requirements.
Prosecutors say Farhat lied to vendors about the intended destination for the equipment. She also filed U.S. tax returns for the co-conspirator with false information and used the refunds for electronics purchases.
In the tax fraud scheme, Farhat and her husband, Hussam Hawi, 46, concealed Farhat’s employment from the IRS, calling her a “stay-at-home mom.” They failed to declare employment wages for the 2015 to 2019 tax years, resulting in a tax refund to the couple each year. They owe the IRS over $64,000.
Farhat faces up to 25 years in prison, and Hawi faces up to five years in prison. They will be sentenced on Sept. 21.