Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Former U.S. Head of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation Sentenced to 33 Months in Federal Prison
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Perouz Sedaghaty Was Convicted by a Jury for Lying About Funds Bound for Religious Extremists in Chechnya
EUGENE, OR—In September 2010, a federal jury in Eugene, Oregon convicted Perouz Sedaghaty, a/k/a Pete Seda, on two felony charges, both relating to Sedaghaty’s attempt to covertly send $130,000 from the United States to Chechnya, where the money was provided to violent religious extremists. Sedaghaty, 53, is the former U.S. head of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, Inc., which was headquartered in Ashland, Oregon before it was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization in 2004 by the United States government. Al-Haramain’s parent organization in Saudi Arabia and several of its worldwide satellites have been similarly branded as supporters of terrorism by the United States.
Sedaghaty was convicted of filing a false tax return and criminal conspiracy based on his attempt to hide the trail of a $150,000 donation that Al-Haramain received in 2000 from Egypt. The $150,000 was wire transferred by an Egyptian donor from an account in London, England to an Al-Haramain account in Oregon. Sedaghaty and a fugitive co-defendant named Soliman Al-But’he, controlled the Oregon bank account. Sedaghaty and Al-But’he converted $130,000 of the funds into traveler’s checks and the remainder was withdrawn in the form of a cashier’s check. The funds were hand carried by Al-But’he from Oregon to Saudi Arabia. The traveler’s checks were cashed for Saudi Riyals at the Al Rajhi bank and were ultimately smuggled into Chechnya. Al-But’he deposited the cashier’s check into a bank account in Saudi Arabia. In attempting to account for the funds with the Internal Revenue Service—which monitors charities to assure they are not using funds for improper purposes—Sedaghaty falsely reported in Al- Haramain’s tax return that most of the $150,000 was used by Al-Haramain to purchase a building in Missouri.
Today, United States District Judge Michael Hogan ordered that Sedaghaty spend 33 months in federal prison and that he begin serving his sentence within 60 days.
United States Attorney Dwight Holton stated that the government is satisfied whenever a defendant who conceals money that is provided to terrorists goes to prison. “Money is the lifeblood of terrorism. We stand ready to aggressively investigate and prosecute anyone involved in terrorist funding or who tries to conceal financial transactions involving money that goes to support terrorists.”
Marcus Williams, Special Agent in Charge, Pacific Northwest Division of IRS - Criminal Investigation, added “IRS Criminal Investigation will always be there to partner with the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and all other law enforcement in investigating those who become involved in financial transactions with funds that end up in the hands of violent extremists.”
“Money drives the violence that is at the very heart of terrorism,” said Greg Fowler, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “The FBI and our partners are always going to go after those who funnel funds that end up with violent groups. In the end, this case shows that strong partnerships between law enforcement agencies can result in a safer and more secure nation for our citizens.”
The prosecution was led by Assistant United States Attorneys Charles Gorder and Christopher Cardani. The IRS, Criminal Investigation, and the FBI investigated the case. U.S. Attorney Holton praised the joint efforts of the Department of Justice, the IRS, the FBI, ICE, as well as other agencies that helped prepare the case and obtain evidence from around the world, including the Departments of State and Treasury.