- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

Four Middle Eastern men were indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury on charges of sending nearly $3 million to Iraq through a U.S. charity known as Help the Needy, the Justice Department said yesterday.
"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," Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a statement.
The indictment, handed up in U.S. District Court in Syracuse, N.Y., named Rafil Dhafir, 55, of Fayetteville, N.Y., an oncologist; Ayman Jarwan, 33, a Jordanian, of Syracuse, N.Y., the charity's executive director; Osameh Al Wahaidy, 41, a Jordanian, of Fayetteville, a Muslim religious leader at the state prison in Auburn, N.Y.; and Maher Zagha, 34, a Jordanian living in Amman, a former New York college student.
Authorities said Mr. Zagha is believed to be in Amman. The other three were arrested by federal agents and are awaiting initial court appearances.
The four, who reportedly created Help the Needy Inc. and Help the Needy Endowment Inc., were charged with transferring to Iraq nearly $3 million in cash they solicited in violation of government bans on money transfers to that country. The bans have been in place since Aug. 2, 1990.
The money was routed through banks in New York and then forwarded to Iraq through the Jordan Islamic Bank in Amman, the indictment said.
The indictment came after a three-year investigation, the department said.
The suspected conspiracy began in 1994, the indictment said.
In a separate indictment, federal authorities said a Saudi student studying in Idaho was named on charges of visa fraud and failing to disclose his involvement in the Michigan-based Islamic Assembly of North America, a charitable group that a federal grand jury said promoted terrorism.
The 11-count indictment, unsealed yesterday, charged Sami Omar Al-Hussayen with fraudulently obtaining student visas and making false statements on visa applications and related paperwork. He was arrested yesterday in Moscow, Idaho, and accused of routing thousands of dollars he received from overseas sources to the Islamic Assembly of North America beginning in October 1998.
The Help the Needy charity, according to law-enforcement authorities, sought donations to sponsor Iraqi orphans and families. They said the charity asserted that millions of Iraqi children were suffering as a result of poverty.
They said donors were asked to send their contributions to the organization online, through the mail to Help the Needy Endowment Inc. in Dewitt, N.Y., by telephone and by wire transfer through Oneida Savings Bank in Oneida, N.Y., or the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
The charity's Web site described the group as a nonprofit humanitarian organization "working to provide care, support and relief to people in need throughout the world." It said the organization would respond "quickly and effectively" to provide emergency food, shelter, clothing, medical assistance, safe drinking water, life-saving surgery, medicines and vaccinations in case of war or natural disaster.
If convicted, Dr. Dhafir and Mr. Zagha face up to 265 years in prison and fines of more than $14 million. Mr. Jarwan and Mr. Al Wahaidy each face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The two charities each face fines of $14 million.


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