Suit accuses imam linked to NYC mosque of misusing charity funds

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, executive director of the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, executive director of the Cordoba Initiative, addresses a gathering as groups planning a proposed mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan to be named Cordoba House showed and spoke about their plans for the center at a community board meeting. (May 25, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

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The imam instrumental in the creation of the controversial Islamic center in lower Manhattan has been accused in a civil lawsuit of misappropriating millions of dollars in charitable donations to subsidize a lavish lifestyle for himself and his wife.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, 64, and two foundations he created were sued Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan by a charitable foundation, a corporation and others, alleging fraud and related activities in connection with the alleged mishandling of $167,000 in donations from the foundation.

The complaint also claims that Rauf and his Corboda Initiative received about $3 million from the government of Malaysia, which he then used for personal benefit. Malaysia's government isn't a party to the lawsuit.

The $167,000 was provided by Robert Leslie Deak, the Deak Family Foundation, Bittachon Holdings Inc. and Moshira Solimon for Rauf's Shariah Index Project, an effort of Rauf's Corboda Initiative and American Society for Muslim Advancement to combat anti-Islamic sentiment, the complaint states.

But between December 2010 and April 2011, the plaintiffs claim, they discovered that the funding was not used for the charitable purposes "but was instead utilized by Rauf for his personal use both shared with his wife, Daisy Kahn, and for his sole use, including but not limited to a luxury sports car, personal real estate, entertainment, lavish trips and vacations with Evelyn Adorno," the complaint alleged. Adorno was not further identified in the complaint and isn't named as a defendant.

The complaint also alleged that Rauf knowingly filed false tax returns for 2008 to 2010 related to the Cordoba Initiative and ASMA by failing to report funds from a "foreign source."

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Neither Rauf nor his wife, Kahn, 54, who grew up on Long Island and attended Jericho High School, could be reached Tuesday at the offices of Cordoba and AMSA in Manhattan.

The Islamic Center, which is not a target of the lawsuit, remains on track for construction, though work has not begun and a clear timeline is uncertain.

The lawsuit seeks return of the $167,000 as well as $5 million in punitive damages. Jonathan B. Nelson, the attorney representing Deak and the other plaintiffs, didn't return a telephone call seeking comment.

@Newsday

Rauf, who condemned the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks at the time they occurred, rose to prominence in 2010 when he helped advance the building of an Islamic center on Park Place in lower Manhattan, just blocks from the World Trade Center site. In January 2011, the developers of the center site said that Rauf was taking a backseat in the project and wouldn't have a leadership role.

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