November 18, 2013 (San Diego) – Three local Somali immigrants have been sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller for providing support to foreign terrorists. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy today revealed that evidence included intercepted phone calls regarding assassinations, suicide bombing and Jihad.
Basaaly Saeed Moalin, a cabdriver, was sentenced to 18 years in prison after being convicted by a federal jury of providing material support to the terrorist group al-Shabaab. At the same hearing, Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, the imam at a popular mosque frequented by the city’s immigrant Somali community, was sentenced to 13 years in prison; Issa Doreh, who worked at a money transmitting business that was the conduit for moving the illicit funds, was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison.
In sentencing Moalin, Judge Miller acknowledged the defendant’s considerable support from the Somali community, his childhood scars from violence in war-torn Somalia and his philanthropy as a naturalized American. However, he noted Moalin’s virtuous behavior “is substantially offset” by his collaboration with al-Shabaab and one of its most prominent leaders - Aden Hashi Ayrow.
Judge Miller said he imposed part of the sentence consecutively – making it three years longer – because Moalin went beyond financial assistance and provided a house to Ayrow. Judge Miller described that action as “an offense of a different magnitude,” noting that Moalin personally offered the home in Mogadishu to advance the agenda of al-Shabaab and to help hide weapons.
“This count went beyond financial support and entered into another realm,” Judge Miller said.
Ironically many in San Diego’s Somali community came to the U.S. fleeing persecution by al-Shabaab terrorists in their homeland.
At trial, the United States played for the jury a recorded telephone conversation in which Moalin gave the terrorists in Somalia permission to use his house, telling Ayrow that “after you bury your stuff deep in the ground, you would, then, plant trees on top.” Prosecutors argued at trial that Moalin was offering a placeto hide weapons.
“These men willfully sent money to a terrorist organization, knowing al-Shabaab’s extremely violent methods, and knowing the U.S. had designated it as a foreign terrorist organization,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “Months of intercepted phone conversations included discussion of suicide bombing, assassinations and Jihad. We are satisfied that because of this investigation and prosecution, we have furthered our mission to safeguard national security by blocking financial support to this dangerous group.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge, Daphne Hearn, stated: "I want to commend the work of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and the U.S. Attorney's Office who worked countless hours to successfully investigate and prosecute this case. As demonstrated in this case, the multi-agency partnerships which make up the JTTF continue to play a critical role in the day-to-day protection of our communities and our national security.”
“Today’s sentencing underscores HSI’s commitment to aggressively investigate those who engage in or attempt to support the financing of foreign terrorist organizations,” said Nick Annan, acting Special Agent in Charge for ICE HSI in San Diego. “I commend all of our partners on the San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force for their exhaustive efforts to dismantle the plot that aimed to provide support to terrorists who wish to harm us.”
Moalin and his co-conspirators were found guilty during a three-week trial in February. The United States presented evidence that Moalin, Mohamud, Doreh and a fourth defendant, Ahmed Nasiri Taalil Mohamud, conspired to provide money to al-Shabaab, a violent and brutal militia group that engages in suicide bombings, targets civilians for assassination, and uses improvised explosive devices. In February, 2008, the U.S. Department of State formally designated al-Shabaab as a foreign terrorist organization.
At trial, the jury listened to dozens of the defendants’ intercepted telephone conversations, including many between Moalin and Ayrow. In those calls, Ayrow implored Moalin to send money to al-Shabaab,telling Moalin that it was “time to finance the Jihad.”
Ayrow told Moalin, “You are running late with the stuff. Send some and something will happen.”
Ayrow was subsequently killed in a missile strike on May 1, 2008.
According to evidence at trial, the defendants conspired to transfer the funds from San Diego to Somalia through the Shidaal Express, a now-defunct money transmitting business in San Diego.
The fourth defendant, Ahmed Nasiri Taalil Mohamud, a cabdriver from Anaheim, is scheduled to be sentenced January 31, 2014 at 10 a.m. before Judge Miller.
This case was prosecuted in federal court in San Diego by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Cole and Caroline Han and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Steven Ward. This case was investigated by the San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection.