DOJ indicts Syrian national on four felony gun charges

The Department of Justice indicted a Syrian national last week on four felony gun-related counts in Indiana.

Majd Al Helwani, 24, of Fishers — a suburb 20 miles northeast of Indianapolis — faces federal charges for unlawfully purchasing and possessing firearms and lying on background check forms, according to court documents filed July 18.

“Aggressively prosecuting individuals who are not lawfully permitted to purchase or possess firearms is a cornerstone of a safe society,” said U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler. “We are grateful to the collaborative partners who brought this to our attention and encourage all citizens to adhere to the campaign: If you see something, say something.”

Investigators said Helwani drew the suspicion of a security system repairer during a service call at his residence in November 2017. The repairer told FBI agents Helwani acted “very paranoid” about protecting his apartment — despite its lack of any furniture or valuables inside — and refused to install wireless internet so he could monitor it remotely.

The repairer returned to the apartment on several more service calls over the next month, according to investigators, and noticed Helwani kept a black rifle bag in the closet of the master bedroom. Helwani allegedly complained about struggling to fix an issue with an AR-15 trigger and pressed the repairer — on multiple occasions — for the contact information of a reliable gunsmith.

After receiving the tip, federal investigators learned Helwani entered the country in 2014 as a non-immigrant tourist, therefore prohibiting him from owning firearms. When agents knocked on his door the morning of Dec. 21, 2017, to execute a search warrant, Helwani answered with a 9mm in his hand and an Indiana concealed carry license, according to court documents.

Investigators later determined Helwani lied on the license application about his citizenship and on federal background check form 4473 during an attempted purchase of a shotgun at a sporting goods store in October 2016.

“These charges send a message to those who lie in order to obtain firearms,” said Special Agent in Charge James M. Gibbons of Chicago Homeland Security Investigations. “HSI is committed to working with our enforcement partners to combat those who threaten national security.”

For the charge of alien in possession of a firearm, Helwani faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release, court records show.

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