Man in bomber money transfer seeks mercy
The Centereach man accused last year of unwittingly transferring money to Times Square bomb plotter Faisal Shahzad lost his job and saw his family cast into unrelenting "chaos and trouble" because of publicity, he has told a federal judge in a letter pleading to avoid jail.
Mohammad Younis, 45, faces jail time and deportation after pleading guilty in August to operating an unlicensed money transfer business that served as an intermediary on two cash deliveries -- most notably, handing $7,000 to Shahzad at a Dunkin' Donuts in Ronkonkoma in April 2010 on behalf of a Pakistani money broker.
"I am suffering a lot emotionally and financially as a result of my wrongdoing," Younis wrote to Manhattan U.S. District Judge John Keenan. "I am the sole provider of my family. Please be lenient with my sentencing so that I can go back to work as soon as possible and start supporting my Family once again."
Shahzad used the money in his failed plot to explode a bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010, but the government has long conceded that there's no evidence Younis knew how the money would be used. Keenan will sentence him Dec. 1, under a plea deal that calls for up to 6 months in prison. Prosecutors have not yet signaled whether they will ask for jail time.
Trained as a horticulturist in Pakistan, Younis has lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident since 1990. His wife, Kristina, was born and raised on Long Island, and they have a 12-year-old daughter. Last year, he was making $35,000 working for a company that oversaw the garden centers at Lowe's home supply stores.
In his sentencing memorandum, Younis and his defense lawyer, Phil Solages of Hauppauge, paint a picture of a hardworking, law-abiding immigrant caught up in an event larger than he ever imagined because of doing something that didn't even seem criminal to him at the time.
The use of money brokers to transfer funds -- known as hawala -- is a deep-rooted informal system in Pakistan that requires no official approval, the memo says.
"Unfortunately, Mr. Younis' cultural upbringing skewed his judgment," it argues. "This court should impose a lenient sentence because Mr. Younis' illegal conduct was motivated in part due to cultural differences."
Solages also contends that his client and his family have suffered already from the "public embarrassment" of the arrest and the intense media stakeout at his apartment that accompanied it.
Not well off to begin with, Younis was let go by Lowe's last December because of negative publicity over the criminal case, and hasn't been able to find a new job since, the memo said. He also had to agree to pay the government the $12,000 he transferred as part of his plea deal -- money he doesn't have.
In addition to his upcoming sentence, Younis could face deportation as a result of his conviction.
But Solages declined to comment on that issue last week, while prosecutors declined to comment on all aspects of the case.