Defense: Mosque Funds for Debt; Upkeep Cited for 'Mistresses'

Article excerpt

Byline: Gary Emerling, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A Falls Church man charged with embezzling more than $430,000 from the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., was authorized to take the money so that the mosque's director could repay a debt to him incurred for the upkeep of two reputed mistresses, his counsel said yesterday.

The debt represented back rent and other costs the center's director owed to the accused, Farzad Darui, for two apartments he maintained for the women, defense attorney Victoria Toensing said.

Papers filed by the defense last year say the debt was for "the housing and feeding" of the director's "additional 'wives' or mistresses."

Mr. Darui, 48, has been charged in U.S. District Court with embezzling the funds while he was business manager for the mosque - one of the most prominent Islamic places of worship in the country. The center, on Massachusetts Avenue Northwest, was dedicated in 1957 and is one of the nation's oldest mosques. The Washington Times first reported the criminal investigation in 2006.

Prosecutors say Mr. Darui funneled money - over 5 1/2 years beginning in 2000 - from the mosque's bank accounts by sending checks to two Virginia-based companies that he controlled.

They contend Mr. Darui altered mosque checks to make them payable to Zaal Inc. and Blue Line Travel, which he operated; that he deposited checks payable to employees or contractors of the center into his business bank accounts; that he had the center's director, Abdullah M. Khouj, unknowingly endorse duplicate checks; and that he changed the center's mailing address for a checking account to a post office box in the District to help conceal the theft.

During opening arguments of Mr. Darui's trial yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald W. …