Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Former auto exporter Mansour feels stigmatized by now-settled lawsuit

TAMPA — West Africa needed used cars. Florida had them. It seemed simple enough to exporter Sammy Mansour, who routinely filled orders for overseas buyers through Mansour Brothers Auto Trading.

Rarely did he meet his customers, Mansour says.

"They send me the money. I buy the cars," he says. "I ship the cars, and this is where it ends."

He wishes it had always ended there. He wouldn't still be worrying about his reputation.

Instead, the U.S. government alleged in a 2011 civil lawsuit that 30 such exporters nationwide — including Mansour Brothers — had been caught up in a money-laundering scheme that supported Hezbollah, a terrorist group based in Lebanon.

On a global level, the case had some teeth. This summer, federal attorneys reeled in $102 million in a settlement against the now-defunct Lebanese Canadian Bank. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, which filed the lawsuit, put out a news release.

But no one trumpeted a deal struck a year ago with Mansour Brothers. The government dropped the firm from the lawsuit in exchange for it forfeiting two bank accounts worth $821. That was after initially seeking $3.2 million, the total money wired for car sales from 2007 to 2011.

Mansour's attorney, Timothy Shusta, considers the $821 settlement to be a reflection of the merits of the lawsuit. He has seen similar outcomes with other car exporter clients. Some, such as Mansour, settled to avoid costs of litigation.

"If you look at the government alleging $3 million … and then settling for $800, that means their case against these car dealers, or their ability to prove it, wasn't real strong in my view," Shusta says.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York declined to comment.

Mansour was not charged with a crime, and he wasn't sued individually. The government targeted only the assets of the business.

The agreement states that he "did not know or have reason to know" about alleged money laundering.

He admitted to no wrongdoing but agreed to adopt anti-money-laundering guidelines and not to enter into transactions with parties believed to be affiliated with Hezbollah.

Mansour took it a step further. He no longer exports cars.

It's been nearly a year since the case was settled.

Still, when Mansour searches his name on the Internet, he sees allegations that his business aided terrorists.

His children, ages 9 to 14, hear mean comments about it.

" 'Oh, your dad's related to Hezbollah?' … This is the life I've been living," said Mansour, 48.

It's hard to stomach for a naturalized American citizen who emigrated from Lebanon 30 years ago and owns gas stations in Tampa.


"If the government is against it, I am against these people," Mansour said. "I'm almost, like, born here."

Patty Ryan can be reached at or (813) 226-3382.

Former auto exporter Mansour feels stigmatized by now-settled lawsuit 08/06/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 9:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa driver dies after swerving off Interstate 4 into canal


    PLANT CITY — A Tampa driver swerved off Interstate 4 Wednesday morning, plunging into a canal in a fatal crash, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.

  2. Editorial: Scott should keep demanding better for seniors in nursing homes


    The horrific story of elderly Floridians dying from the heat in a Broward County nursing home after surviving Hurricane Irma grows more outrageous. Even as a ninth death has been reported, the nursing home blames the state and has filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Rick Scott's move to prevent it from accepting new …

    Even as a ninth death has been reported, the nursing home blames the state and has filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Rick Scott’s move to prevent it from accepting new patients or Medicaid payments.
  3. DCF announces $133 million in federal aid for low-income families who lost food during Irma


    An additional $133 million is being distributed to Florida low-income families to help replace food destroyed by Hurricane Irma, the Florida Department of Children and Families announced today.

    The United States Department of Agriculture has made $133 million available to Florida low-income families to help them replace food damaged during Hurricane Irma
  4. A meatless burger that tastes like meat? Ciccio Restaurants will serve the Impossible Burger.

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The most red-hot hamburger in the nation right now contains no meat.

    Luis Flores, executive chef at Ciccio Restaurant Group, prepares an Impossible Burger at Epicurean Hotel's Food Theatre. Impossible Burger is a plant-based burger that will launch on Sept. 27, 2017 in all the Ciccio Restaurant Group locations, except for Fresh Kitchen. "This burger caters to the carnivorous, not just the vegetarians" said Jeff Gigante, co-founder at Ciccio Restaurant Group. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  5. Plan your weekend: Sept. 22-24: Buffyfest, Arcade Fire, Howl-O-Scream, Wanderlust 108 and 'Rent'


    Plan your weekend

    Pop show

    Florida Björkestra's Buffyfest: Pop culture meets pop music when the Florida Björkestra, a 20-piece alternative-classical ensemble that tributes ground-breaking pop artists, on Saturday will play with eight vocalists for "Once More with …

    The 20th anniversary tour of RENT, shown in 2016, comes to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 19-24, 2017. Photo by Carol Rosegg.