WASHINGTON - Three men, a Libyan national and two Lebanese nationals, were convicted today in federal court of conspiring to defraud the United States and engaging in a scheme to conceal information from the United States government.
Kenneth Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan; Warren T. Bamford, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - New England Field Division; and Douglas A. Bricker, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation - Boston Field Office, announced today that EMADEDDIN MUNTASSER, age 43, of Braintree, SAMIR ALMONLA, age 50, of Brookline, and MUHAMED MUBAYYID, age 42, of Shrewsbury, were each convicted by a jury sitting before U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor, IV, of Conspiring to Defraud the United States and Engaging in a Scheme to Conceal Information from the U.S. Government. In addition, MUNTASSER was convicted of Making False Statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation during an interview conducted in April 2003 and MUBAYYID was convicted of three separate counts of Making and Filing False Tax Returns on behalf of Care International, Inc. (“Care International”) for tax years 1997, 1999, and 2000. MUBAYYID was also convicted of obstructing and impeding the Internal Revenue Service. AL-MONLA was acquitted on one count of making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation during an interview conducted in April 2003.
“Today's verdict is a milestone in our efforts against those who conceal their support for extremist causes behind the veil of humanitarianism. For years, these defendants used an allegedly charitable organization as a front for the collection of donations that they used to support violent jihadists. This prosecution serves notice that we will not tolerate the use of charities as a means of promoting terrorism," said Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said, “Today’s convictions should be a warning to organizations or persons who intend to fund their support of any militant organization or goal, including the mujahideen and jihad, by abusing our nation’s tax laws, that they will be pro actively investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The United States government requires truthful and complete information to uphold our nation’s laws."
Douglas Bricker, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Internal Revenue said, “The integrity of our tax system depends upon the honesty and accuracy of all taxpayers. IRS will vigorously investigate individuals and tax exempt organizations who fraudulently disguise their activities. While the vast majority of charities perform excellent work helping people in need, tax exempt organizations cannot be permitted to lie or generate funds for unstated or misrepresented purposes.”
Warren T. Bamford, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said, “Counter terrorism is one of the FBI’s top priorities, and these convictions are the result of excellent cooperation and commitment by the team of investigators who worked tirelessly to investigate and resolve this complex case.”
Evidence presented during the 24-day trial proved that the defendants fraudulently used Care International to solicit and obtain tax deductible donations for the purpose of supporting and promoting the mujahideen (Muslim holy warriors) and jihad (violent armed conflict). The evidence demonstrated that from in or about April 1993 to April 2003, MUNTASSER, ALMONLA, and MUBAYYID, concealed the fact that Care International was an outgrowth of and successor to the Al-Kifah Refugee Center (“Al-Kifah”) and was engaged in non-charitable activities involving the solicitation and expenditure of funds to support and promote the mujahideen and jihad from the IRS, FBI, and Immigration and Naturalization Service (now known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Further, the government proved that MUNTASSER, AL-MONLA, and MUBAYYID conspired to defraud the United States for the purpose of impeding, impairing, interfering, and obstructing the lawful functions of the Internal Revenue Service in the ascertainment, assessment, and determination of whether Care International qualified and should be designated as a charitable organization pursuant to 26 U.S.C. §501(c)(3) in 1993 and should continue to be accorded that status thereafter.
During the trial, the government proved that in the 1990s MUNTASSER ran the Boston branch office of Al-Kifah, which was part of the Makhtab al Khidamat (“MAK”) network founded by Sheik Abdullah Azzam and another person in Peshawar, Pakistan in the 1980s to provide support to the mujahideen. MAK had offices throughout the World. In North America, MAK was known by the name Al-Kifah.
Under MUNTASSER’S leadership, Al-Kifah’s office in Boston published a pro-jihad newsletter called "Al-Hussam," which means "The Sword" in Arabic, and distributed flyers which indicated that it supported the mujahideen on the frontlines. In these flyers as well as other fundraising materials, Al-Kifah claimed it was a tax exempt organization when in fact it was never granted such status. Shortly after media reports in March and April 1993 linked AlKifah’s Brooklyn office to Islamic militant groups, fighters in Afghanistan, and violent acts, MUNTASSER, who was then the chairman and director of Al-Kifah’s Boston office, incorporated Care International to perform the same functions of Al-Kifah under a different name. In Care International's Articles of Incorporation, MUNTASSER stated that Care International was exclusively involved in "charitable, religious, educational, and scientific purposes," when in fact it was also engaged in the solicitation and expenditure of funds to support the mujahideen and promote jihad and assumed the activities of Al-Kifah including the publication of its pro-jihad newsletter, Al-Hussam. Further, MUNTASSER intermingled the monies collected by Care International with that collected under the name Al-Kifah and transferred assets from Al-Kifah to Care International.
In June 1993, MUNTASSER sought a tax exemption for Care International from the IRS pursuant to 26 U.S.C. §501(c)(3) on the basis that Care International was an exclusively charitable organization. On behalf of Care International, MUNTASSER executed, under the penalties of perjury, an IRS Form 1023 Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code ("1023 Application"). Although instructed to describe all current and proposed activities of Care International, when MUNTASSER completed this application, he did not disclose Care International's current activities involving the promotion of jihad through the distribution of the Al-Hussam. Nor did he disclose an intention for Care International to solicit money for jihad or the mujahideen or to promote jihad and the mujahideen through the distribution of publications. In response to a question whether Care International was a successor to another organization on the 1023 application, MUNTASSER lied and concealed from the IRS that Care International was the successor to Al-Kifah.
From 1993 to 2003, using Care International’s fraudulently obtained tax exempt status, the defendants MUNTASSER, AL-MONLA, and MUBAYYID and other officers of Care International collected approximately $1.7 million dollars. During that period of time, the defendants each filed false annual tax filings, Forms 990, with the IRS that concealed Care International’s pro-jihad and pro-mujahideen activities and the true nature of its orphan sponsorship program. The evidence proved that in addition to publishing the pro-jihad newsletter Al-Hussam, Care International published and distributed an English translation of Sheik Abdullah Azzam’s book “ Join the Caravan;” Care International sold pro-mujahideen videotapes such as Badr al Bosna; published pro-mujahideen articles on its website from approximately 1998 to 2001; and printed and distributed solicitations for tax deductible donations to support the mujahideen from approximately 1994 to 2001.
Furthermore, the government proved that MUNTASSER made false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation during an interview conducted on April 7, 2003. MUNTASSER falsely denied ever traveling to Afghanistan when in fact he traveled to Afghanistan from approximately December 1994 to January 1995. The government presented evidence that during this visit to Afghanistan, MUNTASSER met with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Afghan mujahideen warlord who advocated global jihad. Testimony during trial described a pledge of support to Hekmatyar signed by defendants MUNTASSER and AL-MONLA found during an October 2001 covert search of Care International’s storage unit rented by defendant MUBAYYID. This pledge stated, in pertinent part: We those who love you in the Boston office, write to you asking for direction and looking for explanation on what you see fit and appropriate for us in matters concerning serving Jihad for the sake of Allah. . . . We are prepared to abide by your commands and we are forever in the fold of obedience and military service.
Judge Saylor scheduled sentencing hearings for the defendants on April 2rd, 3rd, and 4th, 2008. MUNTASSER, MUBAYYID and AL-MONLA each face up to 5 years in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine for each of the following counts:
(1) Engaging in a Scheme to Conceal Material Facts from the United States; and (2) Conspiring to Defraud the United States. MUNTASSER faces up to 5 yrs in prison on the False Statement counts to be followed by 3 years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. MUBAYYID also faces up to 3 years in prison on each of the three False Tax Return counts and the obstruction count followed by 1 year supervised release and a $100,000 fine. All three defendants were immediately ordered detained pending sentencing, with a further hearing on detention scheduled for January 18, 2008.
The case was investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - New England Field Division, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Boston Field Office with assistance from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys B. Stephanie Siegmann, Aloke S. Chakravarty, and Donald L. Cabell of Sullivan’s Anti-Terrorism and National Security Unit.