By J. NOEL ESPINOZA
Special to the NEWS
The family of the San Benito owner of Lone Star Motors says apparently he will not be deported after spending about a year in jail for allegations of money laundering and links to a terrorist organization in the Middle East.
George Rafidi, the owner of Lone Star Motors, was facing a series of charges by the U.S. Government.
Rafidi’s brother, Fayes Rafidi, told the News on Wednesday that his brother has been released from a state jail.
“They gave us the cars back, Fayes Rafidi said. “They gave us everything they took. They just took three cars.”
According to the 197th state District Judge Adolfo Cordova, Rafidi was sentenced to time served.
Fayes Rafidi, who’s been running the business since his brother went to jail, said the only charge was of tampering with government records for falsifying a concealed handgun license.
Victoria Cisneros, a spokeswoman for Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz, confirmed the release and plea deal.
“George Rafidi plead guilty to one count of tampering with government records, a felony conviction,” Cisneros said in an email to the News.
“That’s it,” Fayes Rafidi said. “That was the only charge.”
Now, Fayes Rafidi claims, his brother needs to go with immigration authorities in Raymondville to deal with his green card. He added that he is not scheduled to be deported and with hope, everything is back to normal.
“We finished everything with them,” Fayes Rafidi said.
However, Cisneros also said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement handles deportations.
The News tried to reach Adelina Pruneda, an ICE spokesperson, but she was not available for comment.
The family and some of his employees claimed George Zahi Rafidi was only named a terrorist after he was arrested by Israeli security forces and charged with dubious crimes for protesting the Israeli occupation in the past.
A superseding indictment, obtained by the News and filed March 5 in the United States District Court Southern District of Texas in Brownsville, alleges on or about April 16, 1997, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) charged Rafidi with four counts of membership in an illegal organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, throwing stones towards vehicles, activities against public order by participating in disorderly conduct by flying flags and writing slogans, and violating the peace of the region by trying to broker a weapons purchase. Rafidi would have been 21 years old at the time.
The four charges are part of general grand jury allegations by the U.S. Government referring to the popular front as designated by the president and the secretary of state of the United States as a “Specially Designated Terrorist” organization in 1995 and 1997.
In the same superseding indictment, federal authorities accused George Rafidi of lying to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz, who was part of the raids to Rafidi’s businesses in San Benito and Laguna Vista, told other media at the time in Cameron County the raids were part of an investigation of a gentleman by the name of “George Rafidi.”
“We believe that there is being used as criminal instruments,” Saenz told a local television station. “I can tell you that the investigation is centered around money laundering.”
A couple of months ago Pruneda said the only information the federal agency could provide was that George Zahi Rafidi was facing immigration charges.