Terror Suspects 5 Relatives Arrested
Apr. 27, 2006
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Five relatives of a U.S. citizen suspected of being a senior al-Qaida operative were arrested in California and Utah on charges of defrauding banks of hundreds of thousands of dollars through bad mortgages and car loans.
Federal agents are investigating whether the suspects helped fund terrorism, The Salt Lake Tribune reported in Thursday's editions.
The newspaper quoted FBI agents as saying some of the money wound up in Jordan, where the family of suspect Shawqi Omar has extensive ties.
Omar, a 44-year-old Kuwaiti native with U.S. and Jordanian citizenship, moved his family to Jordan in 1995, and he and Iraq insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were indicted there in an aborted chemical attack on the Jordanian intelligence agency.
Omar has been held by the U.S. military in Iraq since he was arrested at his Baghdad home in 2004. He has not been charged in Iraq with any crime, but the U.S. government claims he had bomb-making materials and was harboring an Iraqi insurgent and four Jordanian fighters at the time of his arrest.
The indictments unsealed Wednesday allege that the five relatives committed fraud with three other people in Utah from 2000 to 2004.
``We would be derelict not to investigate where that money is going,'' said Greg Bretzing, a supervisor in the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Utah.
Omar's brother Sharif Omar, 37, was arrested Wednesday at his home in Cottonwood Heights, an upscale Salt Lake suburb.
Four other relatives were arrested Wednesday in California. Brother Bassam Omar, 42, of San Diego, was arrested in Anaheim. Nephew Alaa Ramadan, 29, of Jordan, was arrested in Los Angeles after flying in from Jordan. Nephew Ihab Ramadan, 27, and brother-in-law Ahmad Abudan, 35, were arrested in Chula Vista, where they live.
In at least one instance, according to the indictments, Ihab Ramadan wired $50,000 to an account in Amman, Jordan.
The indictments were handed up by a federal grand jury in Utah months ago but were kept sealed until agents were sure of Alaa Ramadan's return.
The three defendants not related to Shawqi Omar were summoned to appear in court. One had been in custody on unrelated charges but the others were not arrested.
Sharif Omar's wife, Hannah, told the Tribune she has yet to be told why her husband has been arrested.
``I don't know what's going on,'' she said. ``I haven't even talked to our lawyer.''
Gus Omar, a brother of Shawqi, Sharif and Bassam who was not indicted, said the FBI is manufacturing ties between Shawqi Omar's alleged terrorist actions and the family's U.S. business holdings.
``There is no connection,'' said Gus Omar, who works at a Murray car dealership owned by the recently arrested brothers.
Bassam Omar is an engineer who owns several Utah businesses, and family members say he was the joint owner of the Baghdad construction company Shawqi Omar was managing when he was arrested.
Bassam Omar denied that Shawqi Omar is a member of al-Qaida in an NBC News interview in February. ``He is not a terrorist, and it's not fair to him or us,'' he said.