The Department of Justice is seeking to revoke the citizenship of the former leader of a Missouri-based organization that illegally funneled money to Iraq.
The federal agency filed a complaint Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, seeking to revoke the naturalization of Mubarak Hamed, once the director of the Islamic American Relief Agency, which posed as a charity that assisted famine victims in Africa. The organization collected $1 million to $3 million in contributions each year from 1991 to 2003.
According to the complaint, Hamed regularly transferred funds from the organization to an account in Jordan controlled by a man who transferred the money, or goods bought with the funds, to Iraq, which violated U.S. sanctions against that country.
IARA, based in Columbia, Missouri, was the U.S. office of the Sudan-based Islamic Relief Agency. It secretly funneled a total of about $1.4 million to Iraq, the department said.
The U.S. group was dissolved in 2004, after the government deemed it a terrorist organization. At the time, the organization was ordered to transfer more than $800,000 in assets to a charity that assists farmers and drought victims in East Africa.
Hamed, a native of Sudan, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, lying to federal agents and misusing the tax-exempt status given to charities. He served nearly five years in prison before being released in August 2016.
It wasn't immediately clear where Hamed has been living since his release from prison. Charles Swift, the attorney who represented Hamed during his criminal case, did not reply to a phone message.
If he loses his citizenship, he would revert back to permanent resident status and the Department of Homeland Security would begin removal proceedings.
Naturalized citizens may have their citizenship revoked for reasons including falsification or concealment of relevant facts during the naturalization process. The Justice Department said in its complaint that Hamed concealed during his naturalization interviews that he had committed crimes.
The Justice Department noted in its news release that Hamed entered the U.S. on an F-1 student visa and was given permanent resident status through the diversity visa lottery system.
'Broken immigration system'
The diversity visa lottery system has been strongly criticized by President Donald Trump, who supports a merit-based immigration system.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the news release Wednesday that Hamed's case is an indication that the U.S. needs to "reform our broken immigration system now more than ever," and move to a merit-based system.
In July 2016, an IARA representative pleaded guilty on its behalf to conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, conspiracy to commit money laundering and obstructing U.S. internal revenue laws. Several individuals associated with IARA also were prosecuted, including former U.S. Representative Mark Siljander of Michigan. He was sentenced in 2012 to a year in prison after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.