A Portland man who recently accused the FBI of having him tortured while overseas has been indicted on allegations that he conspired to smuggle money to Sudan, as has a Seattle man alleged to have helped in the effort.
Federal prosecutors contend Portland resident Yonas Fikre conspired with his brother Dawit Woldehawariat, of San Diego, Calif., and Seattle resident Abrehaile Haile to illegally wire $75,000 to United Arab Emirates and Sudan.
The indictment, handed down Tuesday by a federal grand jury in San Diego, alleges Haile, manager at Red Sea Finance, used the money transmitting business to wire the funds. The men are accused of structuring a series of transfers to avoid reporting the full scope of the transaction to financial regulators, as required by federal law.
The allegations came two weeks after Fikre, 33, and Portland attorney Thomas Nelson held a news conference in Sweden – Fikre has been living there since his release from a United Arab Emirates prison – where they alleged Fikre had been tortured by police acting at the behest of the FBI.
Speaking with T
the Associated Press, Nelson and Fikre said Fikre was first contacted by FBI agents in April 2009 while he was traveling in Sudan. A native of Eritrea, Fikre lived in Sudan as a youth before moving to Southern California with his family and ultimately settling in Portland.
Firke told The Associated Press the agents questioned him about Portland’s Masjid as-Sabr mosque, a large mosque which has seen several attendees face terrorism-related charges in the past decade.
In the indictment, federal prosecutors claim Fikre contacted his brother on April 13, 2010, and asked that he send money to an account in Dubai. The brother, Woldehawariatm is alleged to have contacted Haile the following day and asked that he wire $75,000 to the account without identifying Woldehawariat or Fikre as the sender.
Prosecutors contend Haile directed Woldehawariat to deposit smaller amounts of money into a Bank of America account he would then use to wire the money to an account in Dubai.
“Firke and Woldehawariat agreed to transfer tens of thousands of dollars from the United States to the United Arab Emirates to have the money available for use in Sudan or elsewhere,” prosecutors contended in the indictment. “Woldehawariat and Fikre wanted to conceal from the United States their connection to the money transfers.”
In the week that followed, Woldehawariat deposited at least $21,000 into the account, according to the indictment. Prosecutors contend the system was meant to avoid federal reporting requirements.
Fikre, Haile and Woldehawariat have been charged with unlawfully structuring a financial transaction and conspiring to do the same. Prosecutors go on to allege Woldehawariat failed to file tax returns in 2009 and 2010.
Haile appeared in U.S. District Court at Seattle on Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said he is expected to return Monday for arraignment.
Firke is not currently in custody.