On Oct. 4, 2010, three leaders of Care International Inc., a defunct Massachusetts charity, argued their appeal of convictions for failing to report information about the charity’s newsletter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).   In 2005 federal prosecutors accused them of supporting jihadist movements.   Despite the prosecution’s claim that the cases were about supporting terrorism, the only charges made were related to tax fraud and no evidence of the use of charities to promote terrorism was produced during trial.

On Jan. 11, 2008 the three men were convicted of tax fraud and making false statements because they did not include a description of their newsletter and its content in their tax-exempt status application and annual IRS Form 990 filings. The prosecution argued that the group supported jihadist movements in countries like Afghanistan through articles in its newsletter and postings on its website. The defense argued that no funds went to jihadist groups and that the leaders were being prosecuted for expressing unpopular political views.

The First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held a 75-minute hearing to consider the appeals of three related cases that resulted in two of the men being convicted for tax violations and making false statements to the FBI. The attorney for Emadeddin Muntasser, Kathleen Sullivan, says the evidence linking her client and the conspiracy to fraudulently maintain the charity’s tax-exempt status is weak. The “false statement charge for Mr. Muntasser is not a slam dunk for government,” Sullivan said.

Michael Andrews, an attorney for another defendant said his client should not be held accountable for how paperwork was filed years before he joined the charity. If he were to be held liable, Andrews said it would send an “incredibly chilling” message to the nation’s thousands of small charities. “What the government seeks to do to impose a rule, on penalty of criminal incarceration, that if you volunteer, you have an obligation to go back and look at the founding documents and see what is declared and [also look at] any other correspondence to the IRS,” Andres said.

Information about each of the convictions being appealed:

  • “Muhamed Mubayyid was sentenced in June 2008 to 11 months in prison and three years of supervised release for a scheme to conceal information from the IRS, three counts of filing of false tax returns and one count of obstruction of the IRS. A jury also convicted Mubayyid of conspiracy to defraud and impede the IRS, but Judge Dennis Saylor IV of the District of Massachusetts granted his motion for acquittal on that count.

  • Also in June 2008, Saylor sentenced Muntasser to a year in prison, plus three years of supervised release for making a false statement to an FBI agent — that he never traveled to Afghanistan. Saylor also granted Muntasser’s motion for acquittal after the jury convicted him of a scheme to conceal material facts and conspiracy to defraud the IRS.

  • A jury acquitted Samir Al-Monla of making false statements to the FBI and convicted him for scheme to conceal and conspiracy to defraud the IRS. In June 2008, Saylor entered a judgment of acquittal for Al-Monla on those charges.”