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ALBANNA DEFENSE LABELS FEDERAL SEARCHES ILLEGAL

A defense lawyer wants a federal judge to throw out key evidence in the illegal money-transmitting case against Buffalo businessman Mohamed Albanna.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott heard 45 minutes of argument Wednesday on whether federal agents had the legal right to search 10 Federal Express packages that Albanna sent to his native Yemen in 2001 and 2002. The judge reserved decision on the issue.

Albanna's attorney, Philip M. Marshall, said the searches were illegal. Federal prosecutor Timothy C. Lynch disagreed.

Albanna and two co-defendants were charged in December 2002 with illegally sending millions of dollars from Buffalo to Yemen without registering as a money transmitter with the state and federal governments. Albanna has denied any illegal activity, saying he was only trying to help families in Yemen.

The U.S. attorney's office filed a $3.5 million forfeiture action against Albanna and his food brokerage business last year.

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