A Palestinian man who admitted trying to cheat a Mobile mosque out of $1,500 in a "stranded traveler" scam, will spend two years in prison and then face deportation to his native Israel, a federal judge decided Monday.
Senior U.S. District Judge Charles Butler Jr. agreed to a recommendation from prosecutors to sentence Mohammed Mustafa Agbareia, 40, to the low end of advisory guidelines.
He also ordered the defendant to pay $90,899 to 54 victims from throughout the United States who fell for his scam.
By his own admission, Agbareia targeted Muslims and Islamic organizations in North America, taking advantage of that religion's commandment to assist travelers who have been stranded.
Assistant U.S. Attorney George May told Butler that Agbareia has helped investigators prosecute his co-defendant, Zouhair Hissy, who is fighting attempts by U.S. authorities to extradite him from Canada. Agbareia has offered to help with other criminal investigations, according to his lawyer.
"I will say, he has been very cooperative," May said after Monday's hearing at the federal courthouse in downtown Mobile.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group that has tracked Agbareia for years, expressed gratitude to law enforcement authorities.
"We understood all along that he wasn't going to get the long sentence he deserves," said Ibrahim Hooper, the group's spokesman. "It's not a perfect result, but at least he's behind bars. . ."