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Muslim Charity Leader Sentenced for Aid Diversion

August 19, 2003|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — A Muslim charity leader linked by prosecutors to Osama bin Laden was sentenced Monday to more than 11 years in federal prison for defrauding donors by diverting money intended for refugees to Islamic military groups.

Enaam Arnaout, 41, a Syrian-born U.S. citizen who says he has met Bin Laden but opposes terrorism, was calm as the sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Suzanne B. Conlon.

The government's investigation of Arnaout and his Benevolence International Foundation, based in suburban Palos Hills, Ill., until it was shut down in 2002, has been a major component of the war on terrorism.

Arnaout pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge, admitting that he diverted thousands of dollars from his foundation to pay for uniforms and other supplies to military groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Chechnya.

Conlon sentenced Arnaout to 11 years and four months in prison. He must serve nearly 10 years before he is eligible for parole. Conlon could have imposed a maximum of 12 years and seven months under federal guidelines.

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