|Image of the alleged scam artist captured on close circuit video.|
Three months ago, when he first came to Las Vegas, no body apparently knew him, this is what he claimed. But within a short span of time, he became known as one of the most pious persons of the town. He would pray five times a day in one of the five masajid of Las Vegas. People would talk about his four days a week fasting habit. His room mates would even report on his tahajjud (nightly) prayers. Certainly, people introduced him as a man of God, without any interest in the worldly affairs. He claimed that he was a displaced Palestinian who is a victim of world politics. He told people about his displaced family. He told them of the persecution that his family has gone through.
He was unemployed and he sought help and the community came forth. Almost every masjid gave him whatever it could afford. He took the money and told the people that he was moving to Anaheim to find a job there. Ten days later he came back. A Muslim teacher, himself struggling to survive, provided him temporary stay at his apartment. Another young engineer paid his cell phone bills.
Then, in the month of November, he informed the community that his brother was shot and wounded by the Israeli soldiers during their attack on Masjid Aqsa in Jerusalem. He sought help and people donated him their hard earned money. He did not have a bank account, so he asked a young Muslim whom he met in one of the Masajid to deposit his checks and pay him the cash. The young Muslim even gave him his bank account so that people who wanted to help could directly deposit the money. Later, he found out that the account was misused by someone.
Three weeks before the Eid ul Adha, he hired an unemployed old man to distribute fliers on his behalf in all the masajid. The flier offered a very lucrative price for a lamb or goat sacrifice during Eid ul Adha. He offered a lamb for $160 and a goat for $150 a piece. Even though he had initially introduced him as Abdullah, the flier was in the name of Abu Bakr. People called him and reserved animals for sacrifice. He asked for advance money. He would invite the people at any of the Masajid to finalize the transaction. It is believed that he collected money for about 300 to 400 goats and lambs. Most people paid by cash. Those who paid by check were not refused. However, he asked one of his acquaintance to cash checks for him.
On the night of Eid ul Adha, he told his room mates that he was heading to the farm to line up animals for sacrifice. That was the last time he was seen in Los Vegas. Now no one knows which community would become his next victim. Among those who are his victims were poor people who were saving throughout the year for this occasion. They were from all ethnic backgrounds and they were from all vocation.
Local law enforcement has been notified of this case and if he is apprehended and found guilty will face the punishment of this world but a greater reckoning of his actions will be in the hereafter.
What was done by Abu Bakr, or Abdullah, or Majid or Abelaziz (he used four aliases) is not new. Every religious community has been tricked by people who pretend to be holier than though and who rip others off on the basis of their so called claim of piety. Some do it at a smaller level some at a bigger level.
People of all religious communities have been taken for a ride by crooks, cheat and fraudulent people. they would continue to do so if we do not develop a fool proof system to take care of our religious needs.
Our religious institutions must develop a policy to scrutinize those who are soliciting funds or offering services to the community. No one should be allowed to distribute any flier of any type unless his her credentials are verified. Masajid should adopt a strict policy of checking the background of anyone who is seeking help from the community. Above all one should base one's judgment of others on the basis of his or her dealings not on the basis of looks. It is possible that most charming and attractive cover my be deceptive.
The photo of the gentleman who allegedly ripped the community of its hard earned money is published with this article. Make sure that other masajid in America take note of him and prevent him from causing further damage.
If anyone has information about this person please call Islamic Society of Nevada at 702-433-3431.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is editor of the Detroit based English weekly, Muslim Observer, director of the Islamic Society of Nevada, Las Vegas and the recently elected General Secretary of the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relation. He is also the vice President of the Muslim Council of America, MCA.
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