NEW YORK – A Yemeni immigrant ice cream shop owner was found guilty Wednesday of illegally funneling $21.9 million overseas in a case stemming from a major terrorism investigation.
Abad Elfgeeh, 50, was accused of transmitting money around the world without a license from bank accounts linked to his tiny storefront in Brooklyn.
Elfgeeh was not charged with any terrorism-related crime although prosecutors said his business was used by a Yemeni cleric convicted earlier this year of a scheme to fund Al Qaeda (search) and the Palestinian militant group Hamas (search).
The jury convicted Elfgeeh of conspiring to run an illegal money-transmitting business, running an illegal money business and structuring bank deposits to avoid reporting laws.
Elfgeeh, who could face 15 years in prison, looked stricken but did not move or speak when the verdict was read.
Prosecutors portrayed Elfgeeh as the mastermind of a complicated arrangement of "feeder accounts" and international transfers designed to hide the huge outflow of cash from his ice cream store.
Defense attorneys called Elfgeeh a pillar of Brooklyn's Yemeni immigrant community who broke no law because he ran a non-profit community service rather than a moneymaking business that required a license.
The money that went overseas came from hardworking immigrants looking to buy homes, purchase business equipment and support their families, the lawyers told the jury.
Elfgeeh came to the attention of FBI anti-terrorist agents when they investigated Sheik Mohammed Ali Hassan Al-Moayad (search), whom they eventually accused of funneling money from the United States to al-Qaeda and Hamas.
Al-Moayad was convicted of supporting and conspiring to support terrorism and sentenced to 75 years in prison in July.
Witnesses testified al-Moayad kept Elfgeeh's number in his phone book and called Elfgeeh someone he trusted to transfer money from the United States to Yemen.