A Santa Monica man is one of seven people who have pleaded guilty to federal charges of providing material support to an alleged foreign terrorist organization, authorities said.
The seven people, including Navid Taj, 58, of Santa Monica, were engaged in fundraising activities on behalf of Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States Secretary of State in October 1997, according to the FBI. The designation has been renewed on multiple occasions and remains in effect today.
With jury selection in the case underway, the seven defendants each pleaded guilty April 28th to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and one count of providing material support to the group, a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman in Los Angeles said.
Each defendant faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney spokesman said. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter is scheduled to sentence the defendants on August 10th.
Appearing before Carter, the seven defendants admitted that they knowingly raised funds to support the activities of MEK by collecting money from the group’s supporters and soliciting money from unwitting donors at public locations, such as Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the U.S. Attorney spokesman said. The unwitting donors were told that they were supporting a charity called the Committee for Human Rights (CHR), which was sometimes referred to as the Committee for Human Rights in Iran.
“These defendants raised money at locations like LAX on behalf of the MEK, which is a terrorist organization,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “We cannot allow any terrorist organization to fundraise on our shores or to steal money from our own citizens so that they can finance their own terrorism operations. Terrorism anywhere poses a significant security risk to the United States.”
Salvador Hernandez, assistant director in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, added, “Part of the mission of the Joint Terrorism Task Force is to investigate fund-raising activities of terrorist groups, some that are disguised as charitable organizations.”
This case began in March 2001, when a federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted the seven defendants. A District Court in Los Angeles dismissed the indictment, but the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s ruling in 2006, and the United States Supreme Court declined to review the matter. In February 2007, the case returned to Los Angeles and was eventually assigned to Judge Carter in Santa Ana.