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Posted by on Jun 19, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Pizza Shop Owner Allegedly Helped Bounty Hunter In Afghanistan With Dough

A Northern California pizza shop owner is being accused of helping a mercendary in Afghanistan who was after Osama bin Laden get dough. Lots of dough.

But this wasn’t used for pepperoni pizzas. It was used to help fund the bounty hunter’s efforts to get a rise out of people he captured and interrogated in his own private interrogation camp in Afghanistan. The government thinks its a half-baked idea and has jailed the bounty hunter, whose lawyer used a not-for-a-family-blog word to describe this case when talking to a reporter. Some details:

HAYWARD — A bounty hunter on a rogue quest to kill Osama bin Laden received illegal money transfers wired through a Hayward pizza parlor, a federal agency revealed Friday.

Local restaurateur Noor Alocozy, owner of Liberty Pizza on West A Street, illegally transferred $1 million out of the country between 2002 and 2003, some of which reached Jonathan “Jack” Idema, a jailed American mercenary accused of running his own private interrogation camp in Afghanistan.

“(Idema) was a customer. He was one of this man Alocozy’s clients,” said Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which spent two years investigating Alocozy’s Hayward-based money transmitting business, Noor Money Transfer, which operated out of the pizza parlor.

“These kinds of financial establishments don’t operate within the rules. They don’t approve the transactions as licensed operators are supposed to,” Kice said. “That makes them an attractive option for people who are trying to move large sums of money around that don’t want to be in law enforcement’s radar.”

The Oakland Tribune says Alocozy wasn’t available for comment, but that his lawyer said his client, a native of Afghanistan, didn’t know that the people who gave him money to tranfer had it going to Idema.

Idema’s lawyer, the paper says, was far more blunt:

Meanwhile, Idema’s lawyer, John Tiffany of New Jersey, when asked about the allegations that Idema received money from Alocozy’s transfer service, said he believes ANG Newspapers is “being used” by federal agents running a smear campaign to discredit Idema.

“This is bull——,” Tiffany said, yelling into the phone. “If the American public knew what was going on, there would be a revolution. It’s outrageous … This is nothing more than an attempt to assassinate the character of my client.”

Idema, a former Green Beret,claimed to be working on a counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan in concert with the U.S. government before he was convicted by an Afghan court in September of charges that included running a private torture camp.

He is presently jailed with two other Americans at the Afghan prison of Pul-e-Charki. Tiffany said he could not comment on any specific allegations unless the government releases the records showing that Idema received money from Alocozy.

“Is that a mistake, or is that a fact?” he asked. “And if he does appear in the records, to what degree of proportionality?”

So the lawyer basically is suggesting that his client was working with the government. It’s not within the realm of impossibility these days…but not proven yet, to be sure.

Government officials tell the paper that this case shows the importance of the Patriot Act which gives the government power to crack down on unlicsensed money transfers. The pizza shop’s owner, in turn, tells the paper that if he knew he had needed to be registered with the feds and the state government, he probably wouldn’t have run the money transfer business — and has no intention of going back in it.

Bottom line: This case certainly does seem to show the benefits of extra scrutiny under the Patriot Act in the case of money transfers. In this case, it involved money allegedly transferred to a bounty hunter but the same techniques are obviously being used to monitor money that could go to terrorists.