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No jail for LI man who funded bomb plotter

Mohammad Younis, center, of Centereach, exits federal court

Mohammad Younis, center, of Centereach, exits federal court in Manhattan. (Aug. 18, 2011) Credit: Charles Eckert

The Long Island man who provided $7,000 to Times Square bomb plotter Faisal Shahzad last year but knew nothing of his terror plan was spared a jail term in his sentencing Thursday in federal court in Manhattan.

Mohamed Younis, a Pakistani horticulturist from Centereach, was given three years' probation and fined $2,000 for operating an unlicensed money transfer business by helping move the $7,000 from Pakistan to Shahzad and $5,000 to another person in a transfer unrelated to the bomb plot.

Younis told Judge John Keenan that he was "sorry" for breaking the law and wouldn't ever do so again. Keenan said his ignorance of the plot was the "key" to his deserving leniency.

"I'm happy," said a subdued Younis, 45, after the sentence. "I'm OK with the decision."

He pleaded guilty to being the middleman in an informal money transfer system, known as "hawala," in which funds were deposited with an associate in Pakistan, and Younis was used to deliver an identical sum to a designated person in the United States. He met with Shahzad on April 10, 2010, in Ronkonkoma.

Younis was acting on behalf of his brother in Pakistan, according to court papers, and didn't know the money had been provided by the Tehrik-e-Taliban to fund a terror attack. Shahzad had a dollar bill with a serial number that matched a code Younis was given to identify the intended recipient.

Prosecutors had agreed to a sentence ranging from 0 to 6 months and conceded that Younis knew nothing of the plot, but urged Keenan to make it tough enough to deter hawala practices. The $7,000 was more than half of the money Shahzad used to carry out his May 1 attempted car bombing.

"This case demonstrates the unintended danger from a crime that may otherwise seem harmless," said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan. "A message needs to be sent that unlicensed money transfers without any knowledge of where the money is going can't be tolerated."

Keenan said that while he was sparing Younis a jail term, the fine was designed to deter hawala. "What you did was, in a sense, innocent," he told Younis. "You didn't know what was going to be done with the $7,000. . . . There's a good reason hawalas are illegal in the United States."

Younis, married with one child, lost his job at Lowe's following the charges and is unemployed with few assets, his lawyer said. In addition to the fine, he agreed to forfeit $12,000 -- the amount of money he illegally transferred.

He is a green card holder and also faces possible deportation as a result of the criminal conviction. Generally, people convicted of crimes of "moral turpitude" and national security offenses are subject to removal.

His lawyer refused to comment on immigration issues.

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