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U.S. moves to seize property housing an Islamic center

November 12, 2009 |  4:16 pm

Federal authorities moved today to seize a Northern California property housing an Islamic center, alleging that the foundation that owns the land has engaged in illegal financial activities with the Iranian government.

Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, filed a civil complaint seeking forfeiture of property owned by the Alavi Foundation in Carmichael, near Sacramento, and in four other states.

The Carmichael property is home to the nonprofit Qoba Foundation, which says on its website that it is an Islamic organization "caring for spiritual needs of the community with a range of religious programs."

It also performs Islamic marriages and burial services, and provides certification of conversion to Islam as well as family counseling for the Islamic community of greater Sacramento, the website says.

The Qoba Foundation is not named in the complaint.

The U.S. attorney also is seeking forfeiture of the Alavi Foundation's interest in a 36-story office tower at 650 Fifth Ave. in midtown Manhattan.

The filing in New York federal court "alleges that the Alavi Foundation has been providing numerous services to the Iranian government and transferring funds from 650 Fifth Avenue Company to Bank Melli, a bank wholly owned and controlled by the government of Iran," the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

The filing also seeks forfeiture of the foundation’s holdings in Maryland, Texas and Virginia.

The properties can be seized under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, according to federal prosecutors, as property involved in and the proceeds of money-laundering offenses.

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento