An Ottawa Hills man accused of conspiring with a suspect in a local terrorism case to embezzle federal grant money in a fraud scheme was arraigned yesterday in U.S. District Court in Toledo.
Ashraf Zaim, the owner of a now-closed West Toledo travel agency, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, theft of public funds, making false statements, and wire fraud - charges that were unsealed last week in a federal indictment.
Mr. Zaim, 39, of 2515 Manchester Blvd., and Marwan Othman El-Hindi, 43, are accused in the indictment of conspiring to defraud the government of $40,000 in federal grant money intended to be used on clinics for low-income taxpayers in Ohio and Michigan.
Indicted a year ago with two other Toledo area men in the alleged terrorist plot, Mr. El-Hindi also was charged last week with additional terror-related offenses in a separate, superseding indictment.
The superseding indictment, which stems from an ongoing grand jury investigation into what prosecutors say is a terror cell based in Toledo that trained to support insurgents fighting in Iraq, added two new defendants: Zubair Ahmed and Khaleel Ahmed.
The Chicago-area men, who are cousins, appeared yesterday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, where they were being held after their arrests last week.
Mr. El-Hindi and his co-defendants, Mohammed Zaki Amawi, 27, and Wassim I. Mazloum, 25, have been held without bond in a federal prison in Milan, Mich., since they were indicted last year on charges of planning to kill American and allied troops in Iraq and other countries.
They have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. They are expected to be arraigned next Monday on the new indictment when they appear for a pretrial hearing in federal court in Toledo.
At yesterday's hearing for Mr. Zaim, the electronic monitoring and other restrictions imposed last week by Judge James Carr were continued by Magistrate Vernelis
The owner of the former AZ Travel & Services, Mr. Zaim is facing up to 40 years in prison and $1 million in fines if convicted of all counts in the indictment.
The guidelines under federal sentencing laws suggest a prison sentence in the range of 18 to 24 months, federal prosecutors said.
At the hearing in Chicago, Magistrate Geraldine Soat Brown denied setting bond for Khaleel Ahmed, 26, and ordered that he be placed in the custody of U.S. Marshals and transferred to Toledo.
Victoria Jones Peters, an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, told the magistrate that agents found $3,000 in cash hidden in a nightstand, a pellet gun, and a knife during a search of the suspect's home in Chicago. A computer also was taken as part of the investigation, she said.
At the request of his attorney, a detention hearing was scheduled next week in Chicago for Zubair Ahmed, 27.
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