A Broussard man pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal smuggling charges for trying to ship guns, body armor and ammunition to Lebanon.
Joe Ali Youssef, 54, was charged last year after agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection found four pistols, two rifles, a shotgun, 8,000 pounds of ammunition and body armor during a random check of two large shipping containers Youssef was sending to Lebanon.
The firearms, body armor and ammunition were hidden in secret compartments built into furniture Youssef was shipping overseas, and the man had booked a flight to arrive in Lebanon about the same time as the shipment, according to court documents.
Agents seized more firearms and ammunition in a search of his home in the Le Triomphe subdivision.
Neither federal prosecutors nor Youssef’s attorney, Gerald Block, would comment on what Youssef planned to do with the weapons.
Block declined to discuss any details of the case and offered only a short statement on behalf of his client after the guilty plea: “He takes full responsibility for his actions.”
Youssef is a U.S. citizen but was born in Lebanon, where he has a second home.
He told U.S. District Judge Richard Haik on Wednesday that he was shipping household items for his residence in Lebanon and hid the weapons for fear government inspectors there might steal them.
“They steal everything they see,” he said. “I wasn’t hiding from the United States.”
Prosecutors said Youssef did not obtain the required license to export firearms and did not properly list the weapons on shipping forms.
Haik told Youssef that he might consider whether the man knowingly broke the law, but he also questioned the quantity of firearms involved.
“That’s a lot of ammunition and weapons,” the judge said.
Youssef faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
No sentencing date has been set.