Federal authorities have filed a criminal complaint charging Imam Muhammad Masood of Sharon with fraud and lying to immigration officials
Federal investigators have filed a criminal complaint charging Imam Muhammad Masood of Sharon with fraud and lying to immigration officials.
Masood, 49, was arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court and released.
Masood’s attorney, Norman Zalkind, said the government is hoping to indict his client within the next 30 days. A 36-page affidavit filed in the case alleges that Masood lied repeatedly to the Immigration Service regarding his eligibility to become a permanent resident. The former spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of New England’s Sharon mosque, is a native of Pakistan and had applied for a green card in 2001.
Masood claimed that he left the United States and returned to Pakistan during the two-year period from 1991 through 1993, as required as a condition of his visa, according to the affidavit. Masood also maintained that he served as imam at a mosque in Faisalabad, Pakistan during his time away from the United States. He began as imam of the Sharon mosque in 1998.
Whether he returned to his native Pakistan is critical because if he failed to comply with immigration regulations, he would have been ineligible for legal permanent residence.
Authorities alleged that Masood remained in this country, lived in Boston University housing, got traffic tickets, had a job and was even present for the birth of his seventh child in March 1992.
To bolster their case that Masood lied to immigration officials, federal investigators contend he also lied to get a New Hampshire driver’s license in 1999 and listed a New Hampshire address while he was still living in Boston University housing despite no longer being a student there.
In an application for permanent residence, Masood also allegedly lied about never receiving public assistance. Authorities said Masood and his family applied for and received benefits from the state Medicaid program.
He also allegedly denied being arrested when records showed that he had been charged with shoplifting in Norwood in 2000.
If convicted, Masood faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a mandatory special assessment of $100 on each charge.
In May, an immigration judge scheduled an Oct. 11 deportation hearing for Masood, his wife and their five adult children.
Masood, his son Hassan, and Masood’s brother-in-law, Imam Abdul Hannan of the Islamic Society of Greater Lowell, were picked up in November as part of a multi-state sweep by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Masood has said that he returned to his native Pakistan, but re-entered this country illegally in 1993 and later paid an amnesty fine. He claims someone else used his driver’s license in 1992 when a ticket was issued.
Masood’s immigration attorney, William Joyce of Duxbury, has said that the imam and his family would apply for political asylum if they’re deported to Pakistan on the grounds that it would be dangerous for them to live there - partly because one of Massood’s brothers, Muhammad
Saeed, is one of Pakistan’s most notorious radical Muslim leaders and the founder of a banned terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Toiba (Soldiers of the Pure) that still attracts widespread sympathy in their homeland. The United States declared the group a terrorist organization after the Sept. 11 attacks and it is banned in Pakistan, India and by the United Nations.
Masood has disavowed any relationship with his brother and told a group of Sharon clergy in May that the last time he spoke with him was “a long time ago.”
Another of Masood’s brothers, Imam Hamid Mahmood, abruptly left his job as spiritual leader of the Worcester Islamic Center last month and returned to Pakistan. He had been imam in Worcester since 1999. He, his wife and their five children left for Pakistan in June. The same week, the Daily Times, a newspaper based in Lajore, Pakistan reported that Hamid Mahmood and his family had been deported by U.S. officials because of “immigration regulation infringements.”
Dennis Tatz of The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.