Two local Muslim businessmen were named in a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday accusing them of conspiring to profit from fraudulent tax refund checks. One of the men, Osama “Sam” Mahmud Mustafa, previously owned a gas station in San Diego, where he briefly employed a man in 2000 who later would become one of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
2TBO (H/T Henry P) In connection with the tax fraud indictment, federal prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of more than $26 million either obtained from or linked to the offenses.
In addition to Mustafa, who lives in Riverview, the indictment, handed up last week in Virginia, names Khaldoun “Tony” Khalil Khawaja, of Tampa, as well as Khawaja’s brother, Muawia “Mike” Khalil Abdeljalil, who lives in Virginia.
Khawaja was sentenced last month to three years in prison on a federal weapons charge. Abdeljalil was arrested in Tampa on tax fraud-related charges when he attended his brother’s sentencing hearing.
The three men are accused of involvement in a growing type of fraud in which street criminals use stolen personal information to file tax returns with bogus financial information used to get tax “refunds.”
The brothers own convenience stores — Khawaja in Tampa and Abdeljalil in Virginia.
Mustafa was arrested today as federal agents searched his Riverview home and his Tampa car businesses.
According to a federal indictment, the three men used their businesses to launder the proceeds of tax fraud. Authorities say they purchased fraudulent income tax return checks and checks issued for refund anticipation loans and then presented those fraudulent checks for payment at financial institutions in Virginia, Florida and elsewhere.
In total, the three are accused of fraudulently depositing more than $17.5 million.
Mustafa’s cousin, Willie Museitef, manages one of Mustafa’s businesses, BNA Automotive on Linebaugh Avenue said the tax fraud allegations were “absolutely shocking.”
Museitef said he was aware of his cousin’s name being mentioned in the 9/11 report. “What he was telling me is they think that one of the guys that was involved in that mess worked in the gas station,” Museitef said of Mustafa.
Museitef said his cousin was in no way linked to the attacks. “He didn’t even have any knowledge of it.” According to the 9/11 Commission report, Mustafa and the manager of the San Diego gas station station, Iyad Kreiwesh, “have both been the subject of FBI counterterrorism investigations.
Khawaja was recorded buying bogus U.S. Treasury checks from undercover detectives, according to evidence introduced in his weapons trial in January. On the recording, Khawaja can be seen paying $280, representing 20 percent of the face value, for a bogus Treasury check.
When investigators searched Khawaja’s store May 20, they found four Treasury checks in his front pocket, according to a federal court affidavit. He told agents he often negotiated Treasury checks and sent them to Abdeljalil in Roanoke, Va.
Agents obtained FedEx Express records of 36 packages sent by Khawaja to Abdeljalil between February and July 2010. In addition, agents analyzed 399 of the checks worth almost $1.7 million deposited into Abdeljalil’s accounts.
Riedel told a judge last month that Khawaja is in this country illegally from Jordan. And Abdeljalil is accused in a separate indictment of entering into two fraudulent marriages in an effort to remain in the U.S. The arrest affidavit says Abdeljalil’s real wife, the mother of his children, married a gay sex offender in an attempt to stay in the U.S.
Mustafa said that his family lived in Ramallah, a Palestinian city on the West Bank.