Demand for trial of imam who fleeced mosque

The congregation and committee members of the Al Osman Jame Mosque in Sunnyside, Queens, allege that both the imam and president of the mosque, who recently fled to Bangladesh, fleeced the mosque’s bank account by writing counterfeit checks. The members of the Mosque Committee, led by General Secretary Mohammed Taleb, will report the matter to the Queens District Attorney’s Office unless the so-called president and the imam return the misappropriated money by the end of July and apologize for their misdeeds to the congregation and members of the committee. In a press conference held on July 18 at the Sunnyside mosque, representatives of the Mosque Committee said that if they receive an apology and the stolen funds, then they may handle the matter differently.

Reacting to the incident, Taleb added that Hafej Mahboob has been the imam of the mosque since its establishment in 1999. Abdul Haque Sarkar was the president.

Mosque leaders never discussed the mosque’s account with the devotees. No one even knew who the members of the Mosque Committee were. Taleb said, “The account was with Dime Savings Bank and the account should have been operated under a joint signature of the president and me.” He charged that the two misappropriated about $70,000 through 33 checks issued from July 14, 2000 to May 21, 2002, not including a huge amount of donation money from the devotees that they pocketed as well. In the press conference it was said that Taleb’s signature was forged by the president, while the imam forged the signatures of both the president and Taleb. They charged that the imam and the so-called president paid their credit card bills, parking tickets, car insurance, electric and gas bills, entertainment expenses and immigration fees with the misappropriated money.

In the press conference it was announced that the president left the country in April 2001 and has not yet returned. He was sent a letter special delivery, but the letter was returned. He also has not returned phone calls. It was also learned that the so-called president married a lady in Bangladesh, leaving behind his wife and children in New York. The lady in Bangladesh is reportedly a niece of Imam Mahboob. Before this, a daughter of President Sarkar was married to the elder brother of the wife of Imam Mahboob. That means they are relatives.

Meanwhile, on May 19, Mahboob confessed to forging checks in a meeting held at the mosque. After that he was asked to present the mosque’s registration papers and a certificate of tax exemption before the meeting on June 7. But the imam did not show up for the meeting. Later, he said that an influential figure in Astoria asked him not to attend the meeting.

The meeting was rescheduled for June 16, but on that day too, but the imam did not show up. Since then he has become a fugitive.

In a meeting on June 22, the interim committee of the mosque dissolved and a new nine member committee was formed, which will work to remove all irregularities in the mosque. Taleb urged devoted Muslims to protect this mosque from the hands of selfish and corrupt people. The new president of the committee, Shahidur Rahman, said that he also didn’t want to focus on matters related to religious institutions, but in this case they had broken the trust of the common congregants, so it deserved a proper resolution. The matter is being forwarded to the district attorney so that no one is harmed by such fraud in the future.

About 300 devotees attend this mosque, located at Greenpoint Avenue and 39th Street near Jackson Heights, every Friday for Jumma prayer. The devotees who came to the mosque on Friday said: “We believe imam, so we offer prayers for him. Nothing can be more tragic than having such a character. Because of people like this, Muslims are suffering so much throughout the world.”

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