Members of a group that for the last few years has sought donations from travelers at Los Angeles International Airport on behalf of what they said was an Iraqi-based charity pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
In a plea agreement, the seven defendants each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and one count of actually providing material support to the group.
The defendants admitted that they knowingly raised funds to support the activities of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, by collecting money from MEK supporters and soliciting money from unwitting donors at public locations, including LAX. Donors were told they were supporting a charity called the Committee for Human Rights.
However, the Justice Department charged that CHR was simply a "front organization" for MEK fundraising operations in the United States.
"We cannot allow any terrorist organization to fundraise on our shores . . . so that they can finance their own terrorism operations," U.S. Atty. Thomas P. O'Brien said.
But an attorney for one of the defendants said the money went for humanitarian purposes such as purchasing shoes.
The seven defendants are Roya Rahmani, 48, of Vienna, Va.; Alireza Mohammadmoradi, 38, of Los Angeles; Moustafa Ahmady, 54, of Los Angeles; Hossein Kalani Afshari, 52, of Mission Viejo; Hassan Rezaie, 54, of Los Angeles; Navid Taj, 58, of Santa Monica; and Mohammad Omidvar, 54, of Corona.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 10.--