Enaam M. Arnaout, 40, of the Chicago suburb of Justice, head of Benevolence International Foundation, has been held in federal custody since April.
The indictment said a criminal enterprise that existed for at least a decade had used charitable contributions of innocent Muslims, non-Muslims and corporations to support bin Laden's al-Qaida network, Chechen rebels fighting the Russian army and armed violence in Bosnia. "It is sinister to prey on good hearts to fund the works of evil," U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said in announcing the charges in Chicago. "We will find the sources of terrorist blood money."
Arnaout was charged with one count each of racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to launder money, money laundering and wire fraud. He also was charged with two counts of mail fraud. If convicted, Arnaout could be sentenced to 90 years in prison without the possible parole, Ashcroft said.
According to the indictment, Benevolence International and Arnaout engaged in a pattern of racketeering. The objective was to support Islamic warriors around the world by raising funds. The organizations involved were al-Qaida and Hezb e Islami, a militant group run by an Afghan warlord.
Arnaout was charged in April with perjury after filing a sworn statement denying that he had provided support to terrorist organizations. U.S. District Judge Joan B. Gottschall recently dismissed those charges, saying Arnaout had committed no crime. But federal prosecutors immediately filed new perjury charges against Arnaout and they are still pending.
An FBI affidavit filed the day Arnaout was arrested said the organization sent $685,000 to Chechen rebels and financed a trip to Bosnia for Mamdouh Salim. Salim is awaiting trial in New York on charges of conspiracy to kill Americans in the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The FBI said one of the documents seized in the raid was a letter from bin Laden to Arnauot.
Arnaout has been held since April in the federal government's Metropolitan Correctional Center. He is not allowed to move around the center without a three-guard escort.
Benevolence International Foundation, founded 10 years ago, was charged in the perjury case but was not named as a defendant in Wednesday's racketeering indictment. The group's offices in Palos Hills were raided Dec. 14 by FBI and Treasury agents, and its records were confiscated. The same day the Treasury Department froze the group's U.S. bank accounts on grounds that the group was suspected of supporting terrorism. The accounts remain frozen.