Ypsi man indicted after FBI terror team arrest

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A federal grand jury has indicted an Ypsilanti man on gun charges, two weeks after he was arrested by the FBI’s counterterrorism team.

The indictment of Yousef Mohammad Ramadan, 28, was filed Friday and is the latest development in the most recent national-security related case in Metro Detroit.

Ramadan has not been charged with a terror-related crime and an FBI spokesman has declined to comment, leaving it unclear why the FBI’s counterterrorism team and the head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s national security unit are involved in the case.

Ramadan, who is being held without bond, smiled repeatedly at two supporters during his arraignment Friday in federal court in Detroit. He stood mute and a not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf by U.S. Magistrate Judge Anthony Patti.

The prosecutor overseeing the case is Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel, chief of the office’s national security unit, who successfully prosecuted underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, according to federal court records.

Tukel attended Ramadan’s initial court appearance last month, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet.

The lead investigator is FBI Special Agent Ryan Schanberger, a member of an elite counterterrorism squad who investigated terror suspect Sebastian Gregerson, who was sentenced last month to 45 months in prison.

“Given the background of the agents and the assistant U.S. attorney, it appears to be more than a run-of-the-mill illegal gun case,” Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, previously told The Detroit News. “The FBI devoted much more resources than they traditionally would for cases like this.”

The indictment charges Ramadan with two counts of knowingly possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number, a five-year felony.

Ramadan has lived in Ypsilanti and near San Diego in recent years and worked as a security guard, according to public records. While living in Chula Vista, California, he received a firearm permit in 2010, but it expired in 2014, according to the state Department of Consumer Affairs.

His most recent address is at the Willow Ridge Apartments in Ypsilanti.

The counterterrorism case was revealed in a criminal complaint unsealed Aug. 25.

The investigation dates to Aug. 15, when Ramadan, his wife and children tried to fly to Amman, Jordan, aboard a Royal Jordanian Airlines flight, from an airport not identified in the complaint.

Before the family could depart, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and an FBI special agent interviewed Ramadan.

Ramadan told investigators the family was relocating to Bethlehem territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, according to the FBI.

During the interview, Ramadan said he owned two rifles and a Glock handgun and had placed the firearms in a storage unit before arriving at the airport, court records show.

Ramadan could not remember the storage unit address but offered to take investigators to the facility.

“However, when asked to take the agents to the storage unit, Ramadan stated that he had lied about the storage unit, and actually had stored the firearms with a friend,” Schanberger wrote in the criminal complaint.

Then the story changed.

“Ramadan refused to identify the friend to whom he had allegedly given the firearms, stating he did not want to cause his friend to have problems with law enforcement,” the agent wrote.

Ramadan said the firearms were legally purchased and registered.

Records showed Ramadan had legally registered the Glock handgun, but investigators would soon find more weapons after agents linked Ramadan to a unit at Devon Self Storage on South State Road in Ann Arbor.

On Aug. 23, a federal magistrate judge approved a search warrant for the storage unit.

Ramadan’s wife is listed as the primary contact for the unit; he is the emergency contact, according to the FBI, which called the move an attempt to disguise Ramadan’s involvement with the storage unit.

The lease agreement for the storage unit omitted Ramadan’s address, the FBI said. The lease agreement also omitted the fact that Ramadan and his wife were married.

The FBI special agent wrote in the complaint that he is “aware that individuals in actual or constructive control of contraband often attempt to conceal such possession.”

Ramadan paid for the storage unit since December, according to the FBI.

The day Ramadan tried to leave the U.S., a man driving a Honda Odyssey matching one registered to Ramadan’s sister was spotted on the storage facility’s surveillance camera entering the business, according to the criminal complaint.

On Aug. 23, undercover FBI agents spotted Ramadan riding in his sister’s Honda Odyssey, according to the complaint. Agents raided the storage unit that day. Inside, agents found two rifles and a handgun.

“Ramadan did not tell agents about the Kimber Covert Pro II handgun, but it is in fact registered to him in the state of Michigan,” the agent wrote.

The rifles matched the description of firearms disclosed by Ramadan at the airport.

Also, agents found components of an AR-15 rifle and two semi-automatic handguns.

The handguns had obliterated serial numbers, which is a federal crime, according to the FBI.


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Twitter: @robertsnellnews