Javed Nawaz, a 30-year-old Pakistani living in the United States as an illegal alien, was convicted of narcotics trafficking charges yesterday by a federal jury here in connection with a scheme to import $20 million worth of heroin from Pakistan to the Chicago area.
Nawaz, who owns a chain of sandwich shops near Chicago, was found guilty in U.S. District Court on four counts stemming from his March 27 arrest at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington.
Officials said Nawaz was seized in an elaborate "sting" operation set up by a Pakistani prosecutor and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Nawaz faces a possible 33 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines, according to prosecutors. Judge Stanley S. Harris did not set a date for sentencing. Allan Palmer, Nawaz's lawyer, said he will consider appealing the verdict to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The jury, which deliberated for about three hours yesterday afternoon, found Nawaz guilty of attempted possession of heroin with intent to distribute it, traveling across state lines to engage in criminal activities, and two counts of engaging in telephone conversations in connection with the scheme.
In his closing argument yesterday morning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Tapp cited videotapes of a purported drug transaction at the hotel. In the videotapes, which were shown during the trial, Nawaz received five packages in which officials had substituted flour and sugar for heroin.
Palmer argued that Nawaz was unaware that his actions were linked to a narcotics deal. Nawaz had testified that he had flown to Washington to pick up the packages because of a sense of obligation to a Pakistani friend, but never asked what the packages contained.
The "sting" plan was set in motion in January when Moazzam Khan, a Pakistani prosecutor, learned from a source that smugglers were looking for someone to carry five kilograms -- about 11 pounds -- of nearly pure heroin to the United States. He tipped off American DEA agents stationed in Pakistan.
Khan, 34, testified during the trial that he arranged to obtain the narcotics himself and immediately turned them over to a DEA agent. Khan then flew to Washington to pose as a narcotics courier. He turned over the packages containing flour and sugar to Nawaz at the hotel.
In tape-recorded phone calls that were played for the jury, Nawaz used code words to identify himself. He also provided serial numbers on a Pakistani 10-rupee note. Khan told the jury he had been given half of the bill by the source who supplied the heroin in Pakistan.
U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova has cited the incident as a move "to interdict the drugs in their country of origin and then find out who their connection is here."