Immigrant Gets 6 Years for Funding Terrorist Group Al-Shabaab
SAN DIEGO — An Anaheim cabdriver who raised funds to aid terrorists in his war-torn homeland of Somalia was sentenced Friday to six years in prison, where he will join three other San Diego Somalis who were sentenced in the scheme two months ago.
Ahmed Nasir Taalil Mohamud, 38, played the most minor role among the four men, said U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller.
Prosecutors say Nasir raised about $1,000 from other cabdrivers in Orange County to send to al-Shabab fighters, who are using violence to try to overthrow the East African country’s transitional government.
The fundraising was coordinated by Basaaly Moalin, a San Diego taxi driver in contact with al-Shabab overseas.
Moalin, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was given 18 years in prison — the longest term — when he was sentenced in November.
Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, who used his influence on the local Somali community as a City Heights imam, got 13 years. Issa Doreh, who worked at a money transfer business the men used, received 10 years.
The men have already served three years and will be required to serve at least 80 percent of their terms.
Even though Nasir’s role was minor, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Cole said in court that Nasir and Moalin were talking about real people’s lives when it came to what the money would be used for.
“It was a serious offense,” Cole said.
Nasir and Moalin met years earlier in St. Louis, where Nasir had moved to work as a cabdriver, said his lawyer, Thomas Durkin. They then moved to California, where they could make more money.
The lawyer said it’s a friendship that his client probably regrets.
Nasir apologized to the judge for his involvement in the case and said the prosecution has led to many problems for him and his family. His daughter died from malnutrition in Somalia while he was in custody, his lawyer said.
“I am requesting for the judge the opportunity to celebrate and save what’s left of my life,” Nasir said through a translator.
With Nasir’s sentencing completed in San Diego federal court, an appeal of the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals can now move forward.
The case has become a legal flash point for the controversy over the National Security Agency secret spying program, and lawyers for the four men hope a higher court will rule the agency’s warrantless surveillance unconstitutional.
The investigation into the fundraising began in 2007 when the NSA spotted a San Diego number in “indirect” contact with a known extremist in Somalia, according to the FBI. The number was on the NSA’s radar from an unrelated 2003 terror investigation into Moalin. That earlier investigation was closed after no criminal conduct was found.
The NSA alerted the FBI to the new tip, and the fundraising investigation was opened.
Nasir and Mohamud have both asked for the court to appoint new attorneys for them, saying they can’t afford to retain their private counsel for the appeal. Until now, the defense has been paid through donations from the Muslim community.
By Kristina Davis