Brooklyn, New York Mosque Leader Convicted In Visa Fraud Scheme

ICE Uncovers Elaborate Scheme To Exploit Religious Worker Visas


Muhammad KHALIL

24 September 2005: The ringleader of a massive visa fraud scheme operating out of a mosque he established in a Brooklyn basement was convicted by a New York court on September 23— the result of a three-year investigation led by ICE.

Muhammad KHALIL was convicted on charges of conspiring to submit hundreds of false applications on behalf of illegal aliens from the Middle East, exploiting a program that provides specialized visas for foreign workers with religious training to work with religious organizations in the United States.

KHALIL was the Imam—an Islamic religious teacher— and director of the Dar Ehya Essunnah Mosque, which was located in the basement of a variety and greeting card store he owned in Brooklyn.Since 1993, Khalil sponsored over 200 fraudulent applications for individuals seeking religious work visas to enter the United States, charging cash fees ranging from $5,000 to $8,000. Prosecutors claimed that he had netted more than $600,000 from the scheme.

Prosecutors alleged also that KHALIL is an admirer of Osama bin Laden and his jihadist philosophy. While Khalil has not been linked to specific terrorist activities, prosecutors pointed to a taped conversation in which Khalil reportedly praised bin Laden and called for Muslims to “arm themselves” for “another attack.”

“None of these aliens were religious scholars, but instead were simply seeking entry into the United States under false pretenses,” said Martin Ficke, ICE Special Agent-in- Charge for New York.“Today, KHALIL’S international smuggling pipeline has been shut down and a potentially serious vulnerability to our homeland has been closed.

”In addition, Khalil issued bogus paychecks to the applicants and requiring them to return the money to him in cash. He then filed tax returns for the mosque and required the applicants to file personal tax returns stating that they were employed as religious workers at the mosque. This allowed him to portray the mosque as a large-scale entity with a growing congregation.

He was also convicted of making false statements to ICE agents investigating the matter and conspiring to obtain false Social Security cards.

KHALIL’S mosque shut down shortly after his arrest in February 2003. Charges are pending against his son, Asim Khalil, for his alleged role in the scheme.Muhammad Khalil was convicted September 23 for his role in a visa fraud scheme in New York.