A Lebanese citizen accused of trying to use his ties to “Hezbollah” to further a scheme to launder drug money pleaded guilty on Friday to a US money laundering conspiracy charge.
US prosecutors said Joseph Asmar, 43, entered his plea at a hearing before US District Judge Eric Vitaliano in Brooklyn federal court.
Aaron Altman, a lawyer for Asmar, said in an email that his client “has taken responsibility for his actions and is anxious to move forward with his life. More than anything, he misses his family and prays that they will be reunited in the near future.”
Asmar had been arrested in Paris in October 2015, and was extradited to the US in December 2016.
He was charged following what prosecutors called a two-year sting operation in which he and a Lebanese businesswoman, Iman Kobeissi, had meetings with a confidential informant and an undercover US Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
Prosecutors said Asmar claimed to be an attorney talked big in recordings about knowing how to make large sums of cash seem legitimate, saying he could use his “Hezbollah” connections to provide security for drug shipments.
Undercover agents provided $400,000 in alleged drug proceeds to Asmar and his co-conspirators, who laundered the money in exchange for a commission, prosecutors said.
Asmar faces up to 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set. Kobeissi’s case is still pending.