A Dade City couple said they smuggled guns to Egypt in car parts last year because they needed the money.
Ayman and Kristina Abouelsoud were having financial problems, their lawyer said. She had cancer and other medical problems, and they were about to lose their home.
Gamel Saad in Egypt wanted to buy guns and sell them to shopkeepers in Cairo who "were concerned with their own safety and their families because there was great unrest," said defense lawyer Scott L. Robbins, who represented both Abouelsouds at their sentencing hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court.
So the Abouelsouds, who have a 4-year-old son, purchased a total of 20 9 mm handguns from a Tampa firearms dealer and secreted them in car parts to send to Ayman Abouelsoud's brother in Egypt. The brother then sold the guns to Saad.
But agents for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives got wind of the purchases.
When investigators visited the couple, they immediately confessed and began cooperating, said Robbins and assistant U.S. attorney Sara Sweeney. They detailed what they had done and helped agents lure Saad to the United States.
After recorded telephone conversations and meetings, Saad was arrested in Orlando. He later pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
The ATF intercepted a shipment of 10 guns before it reached Egypt.
According to court pleadings in Saad's case, Abouelsoud's brother received a profit of $500 for each gun sold to Saad. Saad told an undercover agent he wanted to purchase 1,000 guns to send to Egypt.
On Thursday, both the Abouelsouds wept as they apologized for what they had done.
"This is the first time I have ever been in trouble," said Kristina Abouelsoud, 33, who described herself as having been a "responsible and independent person my entire life."
She said when she first met her husband, he explained to her that he was in the United States to help his family in Egypt, and he has continued to work hard to help his family.
She said when her husband first brought up the idea of sending guns to Egypt, "I should have done more to convince him that even in times of darkness, there's light at the other end. … I have failed everybody. … I will never forgive myself for what happened."
Ayman Abouelsoud, 42, a recently naturalized U.S. citizen, also blamed himself.
"The decision I made to send the guns to my brother was the worst decision I made in my life," he said. Referring to his wife, he said, "Because of what I did, she is going to lose her job, her health insurance and may go to prison."
"I am responsible for this and I wish the people I love did not have to get hurt because of my mistake."
Robbins, their lawyer, said the couple's crime was "about as unsophisticated as you can get for smuggling." He said what they did was "obviously a major error in judgment."
U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington said she considers the crime serious. But based on the couple's extensive cooperation and evident remorse, the judge said she was willing to give them reduced sentences.
Ayman Abouelsoud was sentenced to six months incarceration, to be followed by six months of home detention. His wife was sentenced to five months behind bars, followed by five months of home detention.
To ensure that the couple's young son is with a parent, the judge allowed Ayman Abouelsoud's sentence to be postponed, beginning 30 days after his wife is released.
Although Robbins asked that Kristina Abouelsoud not be imprisoned, Covington said that wasn't possible. "Both of you need to go to prison," the judge said, "to reflect the seriousness of the offense."