INDICTMENTS ALLEGE ILLEGAL FINANCIAL TRANSFERS TO IRAQ; VISA FRAUD INVOLVING ASSISTANCE TO GROUPS THAT ADVOCATE VIOLENCE
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General John Ashcroft and U.S. Attorney Glenn Suddaby for the Northern District of New York today announced that a federal grand jury in Syracuse, New York, has returned an indictment charging four individuals and the "Help the Needy" organization with engaging in illegal financial transfers to persons in Iraq.
The indictment, unsealed this morning, charges the following defendants:
•Rafil Dhafir, 55, of Fayetteville, New York, an oncologist;
•Maher Zagha, 34, a Jordanian citizen resident in Amman, Jordan, and a former college student in Utica and Syracuse, New York;
•Ayman Jarwan, 33, of Syracuse, a Jordanian citizen born in Saudi Arabia, and working in the United States as Executive Director of Help the Needy;
•Osameh Al Wahaidy, 41, of Fayetteville, New York, a Jordanian citizen from Jericho, employed as an Imam at Auburn Correctional Facility and a math instructor at the State University of New York at Oswego; and "Help the Needy" and "Help the Needy Endowment, Inc."
The four defendants and two organizations are charged with conspiring to transfer funds to Iraq in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and Dhafir, Zagha and the two organizations are charged with 12 counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Dhafir, Jarwan and Al Wahaidy were arrested in the Syracuse area this morning.
The indictment alleges that from approximately 1994 through the present, the defendants conspired to violate executive orders and Treasury Department regulations by transferring funds and other economic resources to Iraq. The executive orders and regulations have been in place since Aug. 2, 1990.
The indictment further alleges that the defendants, using the name "Help the Needy," solicited contributions from people in the United States, deposited these funds in accounts maintained in Central New York banks, and then laundered much of the money to Iraq through accounts maintained in the Jordan Islamic Bank in Amman. In total, the indictment charges defendants with conspiring to funnel over $2.7 million through the Jordan Islamic Bank. The indictment also states that Dhafir directed checks as large as $100,000 be cut from the relief group for individuals located in Baghdad.
"As President Bush leads an international coalition to end Saddam Hussein's tyranny and support for terror, the Justice Department will see that individuals within our borders cannot undermine these efforts," stated Attorney General John Ashcroft. "Those who covertly seek to channel money into Iraq under the guise of charitable work will be caught and prosecuted."
If convicted, Dhafir and Zagha face up to 265 years in prison and fines of more than $14 million. Jarwan and Al Wahaidy each face up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. "Help the Needy" and "Help the Needy Endowment, Inc." each face maximum possible fines of $14 million.
The prosecution resulted from a three-year investigation led by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of New York, along with agents from the FBI, the IRS, the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the New York State Police, the U.S. Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General.
U.S. Attorney Suddaby had high praise for the collaborative efforts of those federal and state agencies that participated in the case. Suddaby noted that "various law enforcement agencies working together in a coordinated and cooperative fashion is essential for effective investigation of sophisticated and complex criminal activities that we encounter in cases like this."
Ashcroft, along with U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Moss of the District of Idaho, also announced that a federal grand jury in Boise, Idaho, has indicted University of Idaho graduate student Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, on charges of fraudulently obtaining student visas and making false statements on visa applications and related paperwork. In particular, Al-Hussayen is charged with failing to disclose his financial and operational involvement in a particular organization which, if disclosed, would have exceeded the legal basis for his U.S. entry.
Al-Hussayen was arrested this morning in Moscow, Idaho.
According to the 11-count indictment, Al-Hussayen received and renewed student visas to pursue computer studies at the University of Idaho, certifying in the applications that his requested U.S. entry and presence was solely for the purpose of pursuing graduate studies. The indictment alleges that from October 1998 through the present, Al-Hussayen routed thousands of dollars he received from overseas sources to the Michigan-based Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA), and provided computer expertise and website services to IANA. The indictment alleges some of these websites promoted terrorism through suicide bombings and using airplanes as weapons. In one example, the website www.alasr.ws, registered by Al-Hussayen posted an article which read in part:
The second part is the rule that the Mujahid (warrior) must kill himself if he knows that this will lead to killing a great number of the enemies, and that he will not be able to kill them without killing himself first, or demolishing a center vital to the enemy or its military force, and so on. This is not possible except by involving the human element in the operation. In this new era, this can be accomplished with the modern means of bombing or bringing down an airplane on an important location that will cause the enemy great losses.
By failing to describe the role he played in IANA, its funding, and its operations on his visa application and related paperwork necessary for legal immigration status, Al-Hussayen defrauded the United States. If convicted of the charges, Al-Hussayen faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison on each of the visa fraud counts, and five years in prison on each false statement count.
"This indictment establishes that when a person enters the United States under authorization of our immigration laws, that he must abide by the terms and purposes for his admission," said U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Moss of the District of Idaho.
The investigation in Idaho, which is ongoing, was conducted by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices in Boise, Idaho, and Spokane, Wash., and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, created in response to a directive by Attorney General Ashcroft following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Other agencies involved in the investigation included the FBI, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Customs Service, the Idaho State Police; the Washington State Patrol; the Moscow Police Department; the Spokane Police Department; the Spokane County Sheriff's Department; the Spokane Criminal Intelligence Unit; and the Latah County Sheriff's Office.