More than 120 agents from assorted federal agencies, including HHS' inspector general's office, executed search warrants in Syracuse and Rome, N.Y., and arrested three of four men indicted Feb. 19 on charges of illegally funneling money to Iraq. The indictment alleges that the men transferred more than $4 million to Iraq from 1994 to the present, much of it through Jordanian banks, in violation of U.S. law. Sources close to the investigation said the scheme may have involved healthcare services. Arrested were Rafil Dhafir, 55, an Iraqi-born oncologist and president and founder of Help the Needy, a Syracuse-based charity; Ayman Jarwan, 33, the charity's executive director and a Jordanian citizen; and Osameh Al Wahaidy, 41, a Jordanian-born spiritual leader who also holds positions at the charity. A fourth man named in the indictment -- Maher Zagha, 34 -- was not arrested. Warrants were executed on Dhafir's oncology office and a medical-records storage site. Telephone calls to Help the Needy and Dhafir were not returned by deadline.
Judy Holtz, spokeswoman for the inspector general's office, declined to specify why the office participated in today's action. "We routinely assist other law enforcement agencies when they have to execute these mass search warrants. We had several warrants related to medical issues," Holtz said. Also involved were the FBI, the IRS, the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. attorney's office in Syracuse. The CIA also participated, a source said. Speaking at an American Bar Association conference last year, Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General Alice Fisher said the government was investigating allegations that some healthcare organizations and charities may be funneling funds to terrorist organizations or prohibited countries. Fisher could not be reached for comment at deadline. -- by Mark Taylor