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FBI Investigates Arab American Businesses

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    INVESTIGATIONS OF ARAB AMERICANS DRAW COMPLAINTS MIKE TOBIN Newhouse News Service http://www.newhousenews.com/archive/tobin010207.html CLEVELAND -- Federal
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2007
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      INVESTIGATIONS OF ARAB AMERICANS DRAW COMPLAINTS
      MIKE TOBIN
      Newhouse News Service
      http://www.newhousenews.com/archive/tobin010207.html


      CLEVELAND -- Federal agencies increasingly are fighting the war on
      terror with tax laws and food stamp regulations.

      Investigators from the FBI, IRS and other agencies have turned to
      tactics similar to those that broke the Mafia to investigate people
      suspected of funneling money to terrorists overseas.

      Decades ago, FBI agents snagged mobsters in low-level crimes and then
      persuaded them to testify against their bosses in return for lighter
      prison sentences. These days, federal investigators recruit Arab
      informants involved in crimes such as food stamp fraud, income tax
      evasion and drug trafficking, to penetrate organizations that
      investigators believe might be sending money to terrorists.

      Critics in the Arab-American and Muslim communities complain that the
      tactics are nothing more than ethnic and religious profiling. The
      investigations target businesses started by recent immigrants and
      alienate the community without making a dent in terrorism, the critics
      say.

      Law enforcement officials acknowledge that while there have been no
      terror-related indictments in Cleveland, they investigate tips that
      come in and then make the best case they can. A big part of their
      focus has been trying to disrupt the money flow by giving greater
      scrutiny to groups with access to large sums of cash.

      A recent trial in U.S. District Court shed light on an investigation
      that ensnared several Arab-owned businesses. In the case of Abrar
      Haque, the FBI sent an undercover informant into Haque's Cleveland
      accounting firm after getting tips that Haque was sending money abroad
      to terrorists.

      Agents used the informant, wiretapped phones and secret video
      recordings but found no evidence that Haque was sending money to
      terrorists.

      They did learn, though, that he sold phony financial documents that
      his clients -- almost exclusively small-business owners from the
      Middle East -- used to obtain fraudulent bank loans or welfare
      benefits or free health care coverage intended for the poor.

      Altogether, at least 15 people have been charged in the Haque
      investigation, and prosecutors expect more indictments.

      Isam Zaiem, chair of the Council on American-Islamic Relations'
      Cleveland office, said the Haque case is an example of law enforcement
      agencies targeting Middle Eastern immigrants based on assumptions and
      flawed information.

      "Not only in Cleveland but across the country, there's a perception
      that law enforcement, post-9/11, have been targeting Muslims and
      Arabs," Zaiem said. "We feel there's been an intentional targeting of
      the community."

      In some ways, there has been.

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