Money collected in the name of needy Palestinian women and children helped underwrite a charity and think tank suspected of supporting terrorists, an FBI agent testified Thursday.
And thousands of dollars went to pay credit card bills and other personal items, he said, for at least two people indicted on charges of racketeering and conspiracy to help the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
FBI agent Michael Wysocki, a certified public accountant, said he took lists of needy children whom the Muslim Woman Society claimed to support during the early 1990s, then tried to find bank records to prove payments actually were sent abroad.
Although some payments matched up, the vast majority did not.
The Muslim Woman Society was part of the Islamic Concern Project, a charity created by former University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian. Prosecutors say Al-Arian used the charity, also known as the Islamic Committee for Palestine, as a front for the Islamic Jihad.
Wysocki pointed to listings in 1993 for $1,155 for "Ghaza" and $315 for three other children. Wysocki said he found a check for $1,155 in the same time period from the Muslim Woman Society account to Al- Arian's brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar. And he found a $315 check to defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh.
Al-Najjar's bank records indicate the money went to a credit card payment and other personal expenses, Wysocki said. Hammoudeh's account also shows the money was used on personal spending.
"It was not disbursed for children," Wysocki said.
Only $5,750, or about 3 percent of the $178,858 that passed through the account between 1990 and 1995, went to children, he said. More than a fourth of the money went to the charity, and a think tank and a private school, both also founded by Al-Arian. Wysocki could not determine how about a fifth of the money was spent, and an additional 17 percent went to cash withdrawals.
In another example, he pointed to an August 2000 telephone call secretly recorded by the FBI. In it, Al-Arian desperately seeks a receipt for a $25,000 donation made a decade earlier. It was for a maternity clinic in Gaza, he said. The money was sent Oct. 4, 1990.
Wysocki said he did find a $25,000 payment that day. It went from the Islamic Concern Project to a Hackensack, N.J., company called Niry Enterprises. No description of the company was given.
A chart Wysocki prepared outlines a financial crisis the Islamic Jihad endured in 1993 and 1994. More than $1.5 million flowed into the Tampa accounts between 1990 and 1992 through wire transfers from the Middle East. Nearly $900,000 of that came in during 1992 alone. Some of it went to salaries for Islamic Jihad members working with Al-Arian in the United States, prosecutors say.
The money dried up suddenly, with a combined $230,000 deposited during 1993-94, according to the chart.
Intercepted telephone calls and faxes from 1994 show Al- Arian struggling with a series of financial and internal reforms designed to keep the Islamic Jihad from breaking up, prosecutors say.
Hammoudeh received nearly $20,000 directly in his personal account in 1994. It came from "Fathi Abdul," a name prosecutors say is a pseudonym for the Islamic Jihad's founder and leader Fathi Shikaki.
Defense attorneys have repeatedly objected to Wysocki's charts.
U.S. District Judge James Moody told jurors that the charts could be useful, but instructed them to rely on the underlying evidence, canceled checks and other bank records, before determining whether they mean what prosecutors say.
Wysocki's testimony is expected to continue when the case resumes Tuesday.