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    Texas Convenience Stores Raided in Sting

    Police, federal officials allege stolen merchandise was "possibly supporting terrorism efforts."

    FORT WORTH, Texas -- Almost two dozen people arrested in raids by federal authorities and Fort Worth police are accused of buying and selling stolen merchandise in what officials call an international money laundering ring.

    The Fort Worth Police Department said the alleged operation involved dozens of people and netted several million dollars. According to search and arrest warrant affidavits obtained by the Fort Worth (Texas) Star Telegram, the operation ran as follows:

    A group of shoplifters and burglars were recruited to steal large amounts of items, including baby formula, over-the-counter medicine, cigarettes, batteries and razors, from North Texas supermarkets and department stores.

    The thieves then took the stolen merchandise to convenience store operators, who paid them in cash 30 to 50 percent of the normal retail price, the report said.

    The store owners in turn sold the merchandise to the Ghali organization, individuals of mostly Middle Eastern descent and led by Mohammad Ghali. The organization took the merchandise to warehouses and storage locations for repackaging. The items were then shipped to various individuals and wholesalers throughout Texas and some to Florida and Kentucky.

    A federal search warrant states that money generated from the sale of the stolen merchandise was wire-transferred to financial institutions in the Middle East, specifically Jordan, Egypt and the state of Palestine.

    The investigation began after the Sept. 11 attacks, when Campbell and Special Agent Scott Springer of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement received information from Muslim Americans and Arab sources that proceeds from a money laundering operation were being sent overseas to possibly support terrorism efforts, the report said.

    Among the stores raided by Fort Worth police and federal authorities were Fast Track Fina, Sam's Grocery, Star City Fina, In & Out Food Store, Layth Minit Mart, Mr. Sam's Food Store and Evans Food Mart.

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