[nationalsecuritylaw] United States v. Younis (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 18, 2011)

A guilty plea today in a case involving a man who unknowingly provided financial support (via an illegal hawala arrangement) to Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber.  Details from the press release appear below, and the plea agreement is attached.

NEW YORK – Mohammad Younis pleaded guilty today in Manhattan federal court to operating an unlicensed money transfer business between the United States and Pakistan.  One of the money transfers was used to fund the May 1, 2010, attempted car bombing in New York City’s Times Square by Faisal Shahzad who is serving a life sentence in federal prison, announced Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.  Younis pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan.

U.S. Attorney Bharara stated: “This case should send a clear message that we will not leave a stone unturned in our investigations of terrorists and how they get the money to finance their plots.  Mohammed Younis engaged in illegal activity that, although unbeknownst to him, facilitated the funding of a potentially lethal attack in New York City.  He was apprehended by law enforcement and as a result, a possible funding stream for terror attacks is now a dry well.”

According to the indictment previously filed in this case, other court filings and statements made during today’s guilty plea proceeding:

From January to May 2010, Younis provided money transmitting services to individuals in the New York City area by assisting in the operation of a “hawala,” a type of informal value transfer system in which money does not physically cross international boundaries through the banking system.  In the hawala system, funds are transferred by customers to a hawala operator, or “hawaladar,” in one country, and corresponding funds, less any fees, are disbursed to recipients in another country by hawaladar associates on that end.

On April 10, 2010, Younis engaged in two separate hawala transactions with customers who traveled from Connecticut and New Jersey to meet with him in Long Island.  In each of the transactions, Younis provided thousands of dollars in cash to the individuals at the direction of a co-conspirator in Pakistan, but without knowledge of how the customers were planning to use the funds.  At no time did Younis have the license to operate a money transmitting business from either state or federal authorities.

One of the individuals to whom Younis provided money was Shahzad, who, on June 21, 2010, pleaded guilty to a 10-count indictment charging him with crimes relating to his attempt to detonate a car bomb in Times Square.  During the course of his plea allocution, Shahzad acknowledged receiving a cash payment in April 2010 in the United States to fund his preparations for the attempted bombing.  According to Shahzad, the April cash payment was arranged in Pakistan by associates of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, the militant extremist group based in Pakistan that trained him to make and use explosive devices.

On Sept. 15, 2010, Younis was arrested at his Long Island, N.Y., residence by agents of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

Younis, 45, pleaded guilty to one count of conducting an unlicensed money transmitting business.  He faces a maximum term of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or double the gain or loss arising from his conduct.  In addition, he agreed to forfeit $12,000 to the United States.  He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Keenan on Nov. 30, 2011, at 3:15 p.m.

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