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O.C. woman sentenced to five years for sending funds to terrorists

March 29, 2013|By Victoria Kim

An Orange County pharmacist who admitted to wiring $2,050 to Pakistan to be used to fund terrorist activities was sentenced Friday to five years in federal prison.

Oytun Ayse Mihalik, 40, a Turkish national and permanent U.S. resident, pleaded guilty in August to one count of providing material support to terrorists after sending three money orders over a month in late 2010 and early 2011.

Mihalik used a false name, “Cindy Palmer,” to send the funds, according to authorities.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a 12-year sentence for the woman, alleging she provided the money to a man she met through a website, believing it was going to be used to harm U.S. troops.

She was motivated by a “desire to participate in jihad” and knew the sum was “more than enough to finance an entire operation against the United States military forces,” they wrote, citing her email communications with the man.

They also noted that she had created a “favorite” tab for “The Al Qaeda Manual” on her laptop and had searched the terms “true jihad” and “Jihad in Afghanistan” on her Web browser in “privacy” mode.

Her defense attorneys argued she had been manipulated in a time of vulnerability when her marriage was falling apart after a miscarriage. She accessed the website out of worry for her brother, who was going on a pilgrimage to Pakistan, they contended in court filings. They asked for a 24-month sentence.

The woman appears to have come to authorities’ attention after her husband called Immigration and Customs Enforcement, alleging she had married him under “false pretenses” after she moved out of their home for a trial separation. She became radicalized after a monthlong trip to Turkey two years into their marriage, he alleged.

"I go, 'Listen, did you marry just me for my citizenship and do you want to harm someone here?' And she looked at me blank and she said, 'If I have to kill people for Allah, I will,'" the husband said in his initial report, according to a transcript filed with court papers.

Authorities said Friday that despite the small sum, Mihalik’s conduct was a serious crime.

“Money is the mother’s milk of terrorism and we will move aggressively against those who provide financial support to groups and individuals bent on harming the U.S. and its allies,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE’s Los Angeles office.

Mihalik, who was arrested in August 2011 as she was about to board a flight to Turkey on a one-way ticket, will be deported after she finishes serving her sentence, according to authorities.

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Twitter: @vicjkim

victoria.kim@latimes.com

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