- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 26, 2004

The imam of the Dar Ehya Essunnah mosque in Brooklyn has been convicted in federal court in Manhattan on eight counts of conspiring to submit hundreds of false applications for illegal aliens to obtain visas and green cards under false names.

Muhammad Khalil was accused of sponsoring more than 200 applications for aliens seeking to obtain immigrant and non-immigrant work visas through the Department of Homeland Security’s religious-worker program. The program grants work visas and green cards or work permits to aliens with religious training and experience if U.S. religious organizations, such as mosques, sponsor them.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) spokesman Dean Boyd said Khalil filed fraudulent paperwork for numerous nonreligious workers to obtain visas for which they were not eligible in exchange for fees ranging from $5,000 to $8,000.

Mr. Boyd said Khalil also orchestrated a complex fraudulent payroll scheme in which he issued bogus payroll checks to the applicants on a biweekly basis, requiring the illegal aliens to return to him the amount of the check in cash, plus an additional amount that Khalil told the aliens was required to pay his employer taxes.

He said Khalil then filed tax returns for the mosque, issued W-2s to the applicants and required them to file personal tax returns stating they were employed as religious workers at the mosque. The conspiracy, he said, netted Khalil at least $600,000.

The conviction last week was the result of a three-year investigation led by ICE agents, who used a cooperating witness to meet with Khalil on numerous occasions from August to December 2002.

Mr. Boyd said Khalil agreed during those meetings to prepare and submit a religious-worker application for the witness in exchange for $7,000, even though the witness did not have any religious training and Khalil knew it.

He said the jury also found that the scheme involved more than 100 fraudulent documents and that Khalil was the organizer and leader of an extensive criminal enterprise.

Sentencing is scheduled before U.S. District Court Judge Deborah A. Batts in Manhattan on Jan. 18.

“The religious-worker program was established to admit aliens with religious training and experience into the United States, if they were sponsored by a religious organization. The ICE investigation revealed that Muhammad Khalil was responsible for a massive scheme that brought hundreds of illegal aliens into the United States. None of these aliens were religious scholars, but instead were simply seeking entry into the United States under false pretenses,” said Martin Ficke, who heads the ICE office in New York.

“Today, Khalil’s international smuggling pipeline has been shut down, and a potentially serious vulnerability to our homeland has been closed,” he said.