- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) — Four people and the "Help the Needy" organization have been indicted in New York for illegal financial transfers to Iraq, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a Saudi in Boise, Idaho, has been indicted for visa fraud because he allegedly failed to disclose his connection to a group that promoted terrorism on the Internet.

The New York indictment was unsealed Wednesday morning in Syracuse.

The four defendants and two entities — Help the Needy Inc. and the Help the Needy Endowment Inc. — are charged with conspiring to transfer funds to Iraq in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

The individuals are Rafil Dhafir, 55, of Fayetteville, N.Y., an oncologist; Maher Zagha, 34, a Jordanian citizen resident in Amman, Jordan, and a former college student in Utica and Syracuse; 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; and Osameh Al Wahaidy, 41, of Fayetteville, 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.

Dhafir, Zagha and the two entities also 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 Wednesday 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 also 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 alleges that Dhafir directed checks as large as $100,000 be cut from the relief group for individuals located in Baghdad.

In a prepared statement, Attorney General John Ashcroft cited the current U.S. stance against Iraq.

"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," Ashcroft said.

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 five 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, the Justice Department said, along with agents from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, 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.

Also Wednesday, the Justice Department announced that a federal grand jury in Boise, Idaho, has indicted University of Idaho graduate student Sami Omar Al-Hussayen on charges of fraudulently obtaining student visas and making false statements on visa applications and related paperwork.

Al-Hussayen is a Saudi national.

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, and provided computer expertise and Web site services to IANA.

The indictment alleges some of these Web sites promoted terrorism through suicide bombings and using airplanes as weapons.

In one example, the Web site alasr.ws, registered by Al-Hussayen, posted an article that read in part "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."

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, according to the Justice Department.

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.

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