Wednesday, Jul 18, 2018
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2 plead guilty in terrorism case

Two men admitted in federal court Thursday that they provided money to a known terrorist.

Brothers Sultane Roome Salim, 43, and Asif Ahmed Salim, 37, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to concealment of financing of terrorism.

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Asif Ahmed Salim, left, and Sultane Roome Salim.

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They each face up to eight years in a federal prison when they are sentenced later this year by Judge Jeffrey Helmick. As part of a plea agreement, Sultane also agreed to forfeit $21,595 that was seized from his bank account by federal agents in 2015.

The brothers' pleas came a day after co-defendant Ibrahim Zubair Mohammad, 38, pleaded guilty to the same charge in a deal that calls for a 60-month prison sentence.

Mohammad, like Asif Salim, already has spent nearly 30 months in jail awaiting trial, which was set to begin April 23. Both will receive credit for the time they have served. Sultane Salim has been free on bond, living at his mother's home in Cambridge, Ohio.

Michael Freeman, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the court that in 2009, Sultane wrote three checks to Mohammad totaling $15,000 and Asif had written one check for $2,000 to Mohammad. The checks were deposited in the bank account of Mohammad's brother, Yahya Farooq Mohammad, who was living in the United Arab Emirates at the time.

By a scheme to conceal the source of the money, Ibrahim Mohammad paid tuition expenses and purchased a car for a relative attending the University of Toledo, and the relative's father repaid the amounts to Farooq Mohammad in the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Freeman said the money ultimately was delivered to Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen “with the knowledge that at least in part, the funds would be used to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian.” Al-Awlaki was a key leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was killed by a U.S. drone in 2011.

Mr. Freeman said Asif lied to the FBI, saying the money he gave to Ibrahim was for a business investment, while Sultane said the checks were written for a home loan. Both men knew the money was in support of al-Awlaki, he said.

When Judge Helmick asked both men if the facts alleged were true, they replied yes.

Yahya Farooq Mohammad, 39, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to provide and conceal material support or resources to terrorists and to solicitation to commit a crime of violence for a separate case in which he tried to hire a hitman to kill Judge Jack Zouhary. At the time, Judge Zouhary was presiding over the terrorism case.

Yahya Farooq Mohammad was sentenced to 27½ years in prison for both cases and ordered deported to India once he completes his prison term. Ibrahim Mohammad also is to be deported to India. The Salims both were born in Ohio and are U.S. citizens.

Justin E. Herdman, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said in a statement that the defendants “provided thousands of dollars to finance terrorism, then used every effort to conceal their activity from law enforcement. This case demonstrates that we will work around the clock and across the globe to ensure that anyone who seeks to do our nation harm, whether on the battlefield or through the banking system, will be held accountable.”

Judge Helmick previously granted a motion by Asif's attorney, Linda Moreno, to release him from jail on a bond similar to his brother's, but his order was put on hold after federal prosecutors appealed. Ms. Moreno, who attended Thursday's hearing by phone, asked for her client's release pending sentencing, but Judge Helmick said he lacked jurisdiction now that the matter was before the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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