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Courts / Law

Two Bay Area Men Accused of $17 Million Tax Fraud; One Had Ties to 9/11 Investigation

Riverview Mustafa.jpg
Tampa Times
Federal investigators raid Riverview home of Osama Mustafa

Two Tampa Bay area men, including one who was investigated for ties to an alleged September 11th hijacker, have been charged with taking part in an alleged $17 million tax fraud scheme.

In a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday, Osama "Sam" Mustafa, 47, and Khaldoun "Tony" Khawaja, 48, along with Khawaja's brother, Muawia "Mike" Abdeljalil of Virginia, are accused of stealing Social Security checks, filing false tax returns and lying to the federal government.

According to TBO.com, the indictment states the three men allegedly used businesses they owned--mainly convenience stores and automotive shops--to launder the fraudulent tax checks they received.

The three men are accused of involvement in a growing type of fraud in which street criminals use stolen personal information to file tax returns with bogus financial information used to get tax "refunds." Authorities estimate street criminals in the Tampa area alone have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from federal taxpayers since late 2010. Nationwide, officials say, the fraud is costing the federal government billions.

Khawaja was sentenced last month to three years in prison on federal gun charges, and Abdeljalil was arrested in Tampa when he came to his brother's sentencing hearing. More than 50 federal agents raided Mustafa's Riverview home and a number of his businesses on Tuesday, arresting him and seizing a number of vehicles.

The three are accused of fraudulently depositing more than $17.5 million dollars; federal prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of more than $26 million dollars tied to the alleged crimes.

 TBO.com also says that Mustafa was the subject of another federal investigation for briefly employing one of the September 11th hijackers, Nawaf al Hazmi, at his San Diego gas station in the fall of 2000.  

Mustafa's cousin, Willie Museitef,... said he was aware of his cousin's name being mentioned in the 9/11 report. "What he was telling me is they think that one of the guys that was involved in that mess worked in the gas station,"Museitef said of Mustafa. "The FBI came over and started asking questions. … After an investigation, they let him go." Museitef said his cousin was in no way linked to the attacks. "He didn't even have any knowledge of it."

Mustafa appeared in Federal Court Tuesday afternoon. He's currently being held in the Pinellas County Jail on $50,000 bond.