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One Case Over D.C. Mosque Funds Dismissed

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that accused the longtime business manager of a prominent Washington mosque of embezzling more than $300,000 and diverting the money to companies he owned or controlled.

The dismissal comes as the former business manager, Farzad Darui, is fighting criminal charges that echo the allegations made by the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. A federal criminal complaint filed against Darui in October accuses him of defrauding the center of at least $374,000, according to court records.

The center sued Darui in September in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, saying he had altered the names of payees on checks intended for legitimate vendors, primarily insurance companies, and substituted his own companies' names. The lawsuit claimed it began in about 2000 and continued until he was suspended in September.

This month, the center filed a notice of dismissal in the civil case, and that notice was signed Thursday by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton in Alexandria, court records show. The records do not explain why the center wanted the case dismissed, and an attorney for the center, Robert P. Watkins, would not comment yesterday.

Victoria Toensing, an attorney for Darui, said yesterday that the dismissal was "appropriate, and we look forward to the same thing happening in the criminal matter." She would not comment further.

In October, Darui had asked the judge to throw out the civil case or put it on hold until the criminal proceedings against him were resolved. But Hilton declined that motion Dec. 6.

The Islamic Center, on Massachusetts Avenue NW, is Washington's first mosque, having opened in 1957, according to court documents and its Web site. It is a regular place of worship for thousands of Muslims, according to court documents.

The center is financially supported by the Saudi government, and the Web site lists the current chairman of its board of governors as Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former ambassador to the United States. The center's governing board is largely made up of various Islamic nations' ambassadors to the United States.

Darui, 46, of Falls Church has worked at the center since at least 1984, when he was head of security, according to the lawsuit filed against him. He became responsible for the center's bookkeeping after accusing the then-bookkeeper of being involved in a scheme to defraud the organization, the suit says.

The criminal charge -- one count of mail fraud -- was filed against Darui on Oct. 12 in U.S. District Court in the District. In an affidavit filed with the complaint, FBI agent Brian L. Crews wrote that Darui was responsible for writing checks to vendors and creditors and presented the checks for approval to the center's director. But instead of sending payment to the vendors and creditors, Darui is said to have altered the payee line of the signed checks and substituted the names of companies he owned or controlled.

Darui was released on his personal recognizance and has not entered a plea. A status hearing in the criminal case is scheduled for Jan. 18.

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