A well-known Columbia businessman and cultural leader was sentenced yesterday to three years in federal prison for illegally siphoning more than $200,000 to family, friends and charities in Iraq during sanctions between 1991 and 2003.

A large group gathered to witness the sentencing issued by District Judge Nanette Laughrey in the Western District Court of Missouri in light of Shakir Hamoodi's December 2009 guilty plea to violating federal sanctions against Iraq.

"I made a mistake, and I am deeply sorry," Hamoodi told Laughrey before he was sentenced yesterday. "All money sent was used by friends and family."

Hamoodi, an Iraqi-American former nuclear scientist with the University of Missouri and World Harvest store owner, could have faced up to 71 months in prison. Laughrey said Hamoodi's efforts to diffuse cultural ignorance toward Muslims and educate local residents about the practice of Islam over the past 20 years weighed heavily in her decision. Hamoodi, through attorney J.R. Hobbs of Kansas City, had requested probation.

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