AP NEWS

Imam pleads guilty in kidnapping, money laundering plot

January 28, 2020 GMT

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky Islamic leader accused of involvement in a murder for hire plot pleaded guilty Monday to some of the charges against him.

Mahmoud Shaker Shalash entered guilty pleas in federal court to conspiring to kidnap someone and two counts of money laundering, according to court records obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The former imam of the Islamic Center of Lexington was also accused of trying to hire a hit man in May 2019, but that count was dismissed as part of the plea agreement, according to court records.

A law enforcement informant posing as a hit man first met with Shalash in the spring of 2019, according to affidavits filed in federal court. Shalash told the informant a person owed him $80,000 and asked the informant to do whatever he had to to get the money back, including breaking the person’s legs. Two associates of Shalash later asked the informant to kill a second person they believed had cheated them in business deals, the affidavits said.

The codefendants are scheduled for trial in February.

The first meetings with the informant also involved talks of money laundering, in which Shalash said he ran a “business” involving theft, storage, transportation and selling of items that “traveled in foreign and interstate commerce,” according to the plea agreement.

While Shalash could have faced life in prison, the plea agreement recommends he serve just over four years with five years of supervision afterward and pay a fine of $20,000. Shalash is scheduled for sentencing in June.

The Islamic Center said it hasn’t been associated with him since the allegations emerged last year.