Wednesday, June 22, 2005

fwd: Guilty plea for money transfers;

Hawala transfers of money have been going on for generations, but when they try
to do it in this country it is against the law. RLC

Subject: Guilty plea for money transfers;
Date: Jun 20, 2005

> The San Francisco Chronicle
Guilty plea for money transfers;
Pizzeria owner sent funds to Pakistan and Afghanistan
By Henry K. Lee

A Hayward pizzeria owner has pleaded guilty to charges that he
> illegally transferred nearly $1 million to people in Afghanistan and
> Pakistan.
> Some of the money went to a bounty hunter and former U.S. Army
> special forces member named Jonathan "Jack" Idema, who is serving
> five years in prison for torturing Afghan detainees, Virginia Kice,
> regional spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
> said Sunday.
> Idema, a former Green Beret, claimed to Afghan officials that he was
> working with the American government to hunt down al Qaeda leader
> Osama bin Laden. U.S. military authorities have denied any
> involvement with Idema, who is being held by Afghan authorities at
> Pul-e Charkhi prison near Kabul.
> Noor Alocozy, 41, a native of Afghanistan, said Sunday that he didn't
> know Idema and never investigated the source or recipient of any of
> the funds that people transferred through his company, Noor Transfer
> Money.
> "Good people, bad people give me money. It's not my business," he
> said in an interview at Liberty Pizza on West A Street in Hayward,
> nestled in a small strip mall a stone's throw from Interstate 880. "I
> do not know who takes the money."
> Alocozy ran the money-exchange business, known as a hawala in the
> Middle East, from July 2002 to October 2003. Hawalas are fairly
> common in the Bay Area, but their informal nature often makes it
> difficult for authorities to confirm their legitimacy.
> On May 20, Alocozy admitted to U.S. District Judge D. Lowell Jensen
> in Oakland that he transferred nearly $1 million to people
> in "Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere" without a license, court
> records show. He will be sentenced Aug. 26 on a federal charge of
> operating an unlicensed money-transfer business.
> Court papers did not specify the amounts sent abroad or the
> individuals who received money sent by Alocozy.
> But Kice said, "We uncovered receipts or documents indicating that
> (Alocozy) had conducted transactions for (Idema), and (Alocozy)
> readily admitted it."
> Alocozy's attorney, Stephen Shaiken of San Francisco, said his client
> never knew who received the money. Shaiken noted that Alocozy wasn't
> convicted of money laundering but of operating a money transmitting
> business without a state license and without registering with the
> U.S. Department of Treasury.
> "Obviously, any unlicensed business -- or licensed -- that transmits
> to that part of the world is going to be looked at," Shaiken
> said. "But if you don't know what the receiver does when they get the
> money, how is that different than doing it through Western Union?"
> Alocozy said he didn't realize he needed a state license until he
> received a letter from the Bank of America telling him that he wasn't
> in compliance. He shut down the money-transmitting operation in
> October 2003.
> Kice said authorities had developed a "money trail" showing that, in
> some cases, money being moved through unlicensed businesses such as
> Alocozy's pizzeria "support activities that are potentially
> problematic."
> Alocozy is the second person to face such charges in federal court in
> the East Bay, where there is a sizable Afghan population, especially
> in Fremont's Little Kabul neighborhood.
> Eltaib Yousif, 41, of Castro Valley was indicted May 11 on charges
> that he transferred more than $1.5 million outside the country from
> September 2001 to November 2003 without a license. The investigation
> of Yousif, who has pleaded not guilty, began after San Francisco
> Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents received a tip from New
> York authorities about suspicious deposits being made into accounts
> at several Citibank branches there and in the Bay Area, authorities
> said.
> The USA Patriot Act of 2001 enhanced the ability of federal officials
> to combat the international movement of funds through unlicensed
> money services businesses, Kice said.
> Since the act's passage, investigators have arrested 140 people
> nationwide for allegedly participating in unlicensed hawalas and
> seized $25.5 million in funds they said were intended for militants
> or terrorists.
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