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Man Suspected Of Bin Laden Link Accused of Fraud

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 9, 2005

A Northern Virginia man who allegedly delivered a satellite-phone battery to Afghanistan for Osama bin Laden's use in 1998 is now facing charges of immigration and mortgage-loan fraud, according to court documents unsealed in recent days.

Tarik Hamdi, 43, a naturalized U.S. citizen who had been living in Herndon, is believed to be out of the country and has not been arrested, said Dean Boyd, a spokesman with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Homeland Security Department.

It was not clear whether Hamdi, an immigrant from Iraq, had hired a lawyer. The phone listed for his home in Herndon was disconnected.

Hamdi delivered a satellite phone battery to a Bin Laden aide while he was in Afghanistan in May 1998 helping to set up an interview for ABC News, according to an affidavit by David Kane, an agent with the immigration division. Bin Laden used that phone in connection with the deadly bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that year, according to the affidavit, which was in support of a 2002 search warrant and was unsealed last week.

It was unclear how long Hamdi has been out of the country, but the grand jury charged him in a sealed indictment in May. A call to his former employer, the International Institute for Islamic Thought in Herndon, was not returned yesterday.

ABC News did not respond to a request for more information about its relationship with Hamdi.

Hamdi has not been charged for delivering the battery. A friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hamdi had carried it to Afghanistan as a favor for an acquaintance. Still, the act apparently attracted scrutiny from U.S. anti-terrorism agents, who searched Hamdi's home in March 2002 as part of a blitz of raids on Muslim charities in Northern Virginia. None of those charities has been accused of a crime.

The charges against Hamdi focus on a series of alleged omissions in Hamdi's naturalization papers, as well as information he submitted on mortgage-loan applications.

According to the indictment in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Hamdi did not state on his naturalization form that in 1994 he had been the U.S. representative for the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights in Saudi Arabia, a London-based organization that has embraced many of bin Laden's views.

In addition, Hamdi did not acknowledge that he had tried to qualify for immigration amnesty by claiming to have worked on a Texas farm in the mid-1980s, the papers say. His application was denied after officials determined the farmer who vouched for him was a phony, according to the indictment.

Hamdi emigrated from Iraq in 1983 on a student visa and eventually married a U.S. citizen, who sponsored him for permanent residency, the court papers say.

U.S. officials have increasingly used immigration charges to lock up or deport people who have come to their attention in terrorism investigations. Officials say they must take every legal measure to preempt further attacks, including using lesser charges when a terrorism case is difficult to build.

Islamic and civil-liberties groups have said the charges can amount to selective prosecution of Muslims and Arabs.

Hamdi was also accused of committing wire fraud by receiving mortgage loans by inflating his income on the applications. If found guilty of all the charges, he could face up to 20 years in jail, court officials said.

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