A man on an expired student visa who was arrested last year after some puzzling actions at a Florida airport hotel was sentenced on firearms charges Monday.
Last December, federal agents arrested Hamid Mohamed Ahmed Ali Rehaif, a citizen of the United Arab Emirates, in Melbourne, after an interview.
According to court documents, Rehaif had been staying in the Hilton Rialto Hotel for 53 consecutive nights, checking out every morning and then checking back in that afternoon. He always requested a room on the eighth floor with a view of the Melbourne International Airport. Paying with cash, the man had spent some $11,000 during that time. He was known to give loose rounds of ammunition as “gifts” to hotel employees.
This unusual activity sparked a call by the hotel manager to local police, who then called in the feds.
Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation questioned Rehaif in a conference room off the lobby. They ascertained that the man had violated his immigration status by not being in school — having attended the Florida Institute of Technology for three semesters then dropped out in 2014 — and during that time he had owned as many as three firearms while in the country that he had subsequently sold or given away.
A search of Rehaif’s room followed up by a visit to a storage facility where he had once rented space turned up 11 rounds of .223, and 201 rounds of 9mm ammunition he admitted was his.
While he no longer possessed the firearms, agents were able to confirm that he had shot them and a rented Glock at a nearby range during the time his visa had lapsed.
Subsequently, he was charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition by an unlawful alien to which was found guilty by a federal jury in May. As such, he was eligible for a 10-year sentence and $250,000 in fines.
In the lead up to sentencing, his attorney argued for time served, citing the fact that Rehaif had both a Florida driver’s and hunting licenses, was in a relationship with an area woman whose mother wrote a letter on his behalf to the court, had entered the country legally and was not aware that he had broken the law by having ammunition after his immigration status had changed.
The government argued for a 21 to 27 month sentence and alleged that the man had also owned an AK-47 while in the country that he did not mention.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge John Antoon, II, sentenced Rehaif to 18 months in federal prison after which he will be deported back to the United Arab Emirates.