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Yassine brothers wait for jury answer

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TWC News: Jury deliberation underway in Yassine money-laundering trial
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Update -- After deliberating for two hours Wednesday afternoon, the jury in the money laundering trial of three downtown bar operators called it quits for the day.

The jury is expected to comb though hours of audio-taped recordings, review written transcripts translated from Arabic and French, and recall witness testimony before delivering a decision.

Business owner Mike Yassine alongside his brothers, Steve and Hadi Yassine, face federal money laundering charges. Seven days of courtroom testimony and evidence revealed what prosecutors call proof of a drug money laundering operation concealed through several downtown bars the Yassine brothers owned.

"One word would have ended this case," said U.S. Assistant Attorney Gregg Sofer before the jury, "No. No, would have stopped this investigation."

For almost two hours Wednesday morning, Sofer used evidence presented during the trial as a reminder of why the trio are indicted.

"Steve was more than happy to call Mike, " Sofer told the jury, "And ask him to launder money."

During the trial, the prosecution frequently said it was Steve Yassine who "opened the door" for the drugs for money, money for checks scam, totaling more than $200,000.

According to FBI Special Agent Donald Holstead, federal officials received a "tip" in 2006. In previous testimony, Holstead told the court law enforcement suspected illegal activity was occurring inside the bars owned by Yassine Enterprises. Holstead also said they "could not penetrate the Yassine empire."

In 2007, the FBI contacted former employee Moe Yassine, who was a known street level drug dealer. The Yassine cousin was living in Colorado after he was fired by Mike Yassine for more than $8,200 in theft.

"Moe was no angel," Sofer said looking directly at the jury panel, "But he did what the FBI was not able to do."

After Sofer took a break addressing the jury, Mike Yassine's defense attorney David Botsford quickly took over, "It's not right, it's not fair," Speaking heatedly to the jury, "The government should not be allowed to create crime!'

Since 2007, Moe Yassine and his family have earned more than $344,000 for his undercover work. He remains on the government payroll.

The prosecution played several audio clips during the trial--each clip, according to the government, were recordings of guilt.

Sofer uses a June 24, 2008 recording to illustrate Mike Yassine was aware his cousin was dealing drugs between Texas and Colorado.

On tape the court heard Mike ask, "You sell five kilos?" Moe answers briefly, "Five kilos." Moe testified his front was that he was moving more than four kilos of cocaine a month.

"The American dream is alive and well," said Hadi Yassine's defense attorney Gerry Morris, "Moe came to this country to lie, cheat and steal. Who knew those were the skills the government were looking for."

Prosecutors had the final word for the jury, "We can all agree Moe is not a good candidate for man of the year."

Sofer said the defense team placed a lot of attention on the informants testimony, a strategy to draw attention away from the facts of the case, "But he couldn't have made them say the things they said on tape."

Earlier --Closing arguments are over in the case of three brothers charged with money laundering.

The trial of Mike, Steve, and Hadi Yassine has been going on for a week and half, and now their fate is in the hands of a jury.

In closing arguments Wednesday morning, US. Assistant Attorney Gregg Sofer wasted no time telling the jury Moe Yassine was a vital asset to penetrate Yassine Enterprises.

"Moe was no angel," Sofer said looking directly at the jury panel, "But he did what the FBI was not able to do."

Sofer is the lead prosecutor for the government's case against three downtown Austin bar operators accused of money laundering large sums of drug money through their downtown business.

The governments star witness is a first cousin to Mike, Steve and Hadi Yassine. He was solicited by FBI agents in mid-2007 to infiltrate the Yassine's operation. Addressing the jury, Sofer asked the jury to question how any legitimate businessmen would deal with a shady character such as Moe.

"Any reasonable person would run and get away from him, " Sofer told the jury, "Had you known who this man was."

Between 2007 and 2008, Moe Yassine wore FBI undercover recording devices to listen in on conversations including drug deals, threats of violence, and money laundering. The informant along with the Mike, Steve and Hadi can be heard on multiple audio clips conspiring criminal activities, according to the government. Other co-defendants also are captured on tape, involved in suspected illegal activities.

Following the prosecutions closing arguments, each of the three defense attorneys will argue their case in front of the jury.

Defense attorney David Botsford is now presenting his closing arguments to the jury. ClientIP:,, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP