Auto dealers convicted in drug case

Tribune staff report
Published February 26, 2007, 6:19 PM CST

A federal jury on Monday convicted two auto dealers of racketeering for a scheme that involved laundering money for gang members through cash purchases of luxury cars at West Side dealerships.

Amir Hosseini and Hossein Obaei, who were charged almost two years ago, were convicted of a total of 98 counts, including money laundering, bank fraud, mail fraud and bribery. Authorities shut down the lots in 2005. The cash allegedly was being laundered for the Latin Kings, Conservative Vice Lords and other street gangs.

Prosecutors said the men had allowed the cash purchases and schemed to avoid sales tax on some 1,300 vehicles. Hosseini and Obaei had structured $17 million into business accounts that the government alleged were drug proceeds.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Rubinstein, who led the prosecution, said Hosseini, 50, of Winnetka, could face 20 years in prison. Obaei, 54, of Northbrook, could face life in prison because he also was convicted of aiding and abetting a drug ring.
 Former Chicago car dealers guilty of fraud

Two men convicted of 98 criminal charges, may end up getting life terms

Issue date: 2/27/07
CHICAGO, Ill. (AP) - Two former Chicago auto dealers were convicted Monday of turning their businesses into money-laundering havens for drug-dealing street gangs.

Amir Hosseini, 50, of Winnetka and Hossein Obaei, 54, of Northbrook, were immediately taken into custody by marshals after being convicted of dozens of counts of racketeering, money laundering, bank fraud, bribery and structuring deposits to evade federal scrutiny.

One female relative screamed obscenities at prosecutors while friends struggled to restrain her and another relative sobbed openly as marshals searched the two men and led them away in handcuffs.

They were convicted of so many counts, 98 between the two of them, that prosecutors said they could end up effectively getting life terms.

U.S. District Judge Milton I. Shadur set sentencing for May 18.

Jurors deliberated for about 15 hours over three days before reaching the verdicts.

At the trial, which began Jan. 22, members of the Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples, Latin Kings and Four Corner Hustlers testified that they used proceeds from sales of heroin and cocaine to buy Jaguars, BMWs, Cadillacs and other luxury vehicles from the two defendants.

Prosecutors said Hosseini and Obaei were aware that drug money was paying for the luxury autos. Evidence showed that Hosseini transferred $100,000 of the cash to Iran but prosecutors declined to comment on the reason.

When arrested, both men carried American and Iranian passports.

Defense attorneys argued that the witnesses against the two men were criminals who lied to avoid long prison terms themselves.