CHICAGO—A Chicago man who personally provided hundreds of dollars to an alleged terrorist leader with whom he had met in his native Pakistan, was sentenced today to 7.5 years in federal prison for attempting to provide additional funds to the same individual after learning he was working with al Qaeda. The defendant, Raja Lahrasib Khan, a Chicago taxi driver and native of Pakistan who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1988, pleaded guilty in February to one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, following his arrest in March 2010.
Khan, 58, of the city’s north side, (Uptown area) displayed “toxic altruism” U.S. District Judge James Zagel said in imposing the 90-month sentence, followed by lifetime supervised release, in Federal Court in Chicago. In addition, the judge said it was a “profoundly aggravating factor” that Khan’s crime occurred after he voluntarily chose to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Although Khan’s actual donations (approximately $500 to $550) and attempted donation ($1,000) were, relatively speaking, not incredibly substantial amounts, donations need not be large to be of assistance to terrorist organizations, the government argued, and the judge noted as well.
Khan’s plea agreement called for an agreed sentence of between five and eight years in prison, and it requires Khan to cooperate with the government in any matter in which he is called upon to assist through the termination of his sentence and any period of supervised release.
Khan, who was born and resided in the Azad Kashmir region of Pakistan before immigrating to the United States in the late 1970s, admitted that he met with Ilyas Kashmiri, a leader of the Kashmir independence movement, in Pakistan in the early to mid-2000s and again in 2008. At the time of the second meeting, Khan knew or had reason to believe that Kashmiri was working with al Qaeda, in addition to leading attacks against the Indian government in the Kashmir region. During their 2008 meeting, Kashmiri told Khan that Osama bin Laden was alive, healthy, and giving orders, and Khan gave Kashmiri approximately 20,000 Pakistani rupees (approximately $200 to $250), which he intended Kashmiri to use to support attacks against India.
On November 23, 2009, Khan sent approximately 77,917 rupees (approximately $930) from Chicago to an individual in Pakistan, via Western Union, and then directed the individual by phone to give Kashmiri approximately 25,000 rupees (approximately $300). Although Khan intended the funds to be used by Kashmiri to support attacks against India, he was also aware that Kashmiri was working with al Qaeda.
In February and March 2010, Khan participated in several meetings with an undercover law enforcement agent who posed as someone interested in sending money to Kashmiri to purchase weapons and ammunition, but only if Kashmiri was working with al Qaeda, as well as sending individuals into Pakistan to receive military-style training so they could conduct attacks against U.S. forces and interests. On March 17, 2010, the undercover agent provided Khan with $1,000, which Khan agreed to provide to Kashmiri. Khan then gave the funds to his son, who was traveling from the United States to the United Kingdom, intending to later retrieve the money from his son in the U.K. and subsequently provide it to Kashmiri in Pakistan.
On March 23, 2010, Khan’s son arrived at an airport in the U.K. and a search by U.K. law enforcement officials yielded seven of the 10 $100 bills that the undercover agent had provided to Khan. After learning of his son’s detention, Khan attempted to end his involvement in the scheme to provide funds to Kashmiri by requesting an urgent meeting with another individual who was also present at Khan’s earlier meetings with the undercover agent. During their meeting, Khan demanded to return the undercover agent’s funds by providing $800 to this other individual.
The investigation was conducted by the Chicago FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, with particular assistance from the Chicago Police Department, the Illinois State Police, and the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
From NBC Chicago:
Khan, 56, lives on the eighth floor of an apartment building in the Uptown neighborhood and was arrested in his cab at about 8 a.m. Friday. He’s been charged with two counts of providing material support to terrorism, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago and unsealed following his arrest. The investigation is continuing.
The balding, bearded Khan, clad in a wrinkled nylon jacket, rumpled pants and sneakers, appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate
Geraldine Soat Brown on Friday afternoon. She ordered him held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center pending a status hearing set for Tuesday.
The complaint states Khan accepted these funds after having had prior conversations with the agent in which:
— Khan confirmed that Kashmiri was working with al Qaeda;
— Khan assured that Kashmiri would use the undercover agent’s funds to purchase weapons and, possibly, other supplies;
— Khan assured that he had provided Kashmiri with money in the past, including in approximately December 2009; and
— Khan discussed the possibility of having his son transport the money from the United States to England, where Khan would rendevous with his son, retrieve the money, and deliver it to Kashmiri in Pakistan.