Federal prosecutors announced last week they are searching for two Chicago businessmen they say swindled hundreds of Muslims out of millions of dollars.  Salman Ibrahim and Mohammad Akbar Zahid fraudulently collected over $40 million from more than 300 Muslim investors and acquired more than $29 million in loans from three Illinois banks.  

The two men claimed that their company, Sunrise Equities, Inc., was Shariah compliant in that investors would receive profit generated from real estate development instead of interest on their investments, which is prohibited under Islamic law.  

“This is the first time in Chicago that an alleged fraud scheme has been uncovered that used a pillar of Islam to induce potential victims to invest their funds,” said Robert D. Grant, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  
Ibrahim and Zahid have reportedly fled the United States since Sunrise’s collapse, and the FBI believes they are living abroad.  A third man, Amjed Mahmood, a Des Plaines resident and ten percent owner in the company, is expected to be arraigned at a later date.

Collectively, their victims have lost approximately $30 million and the banks lost approximately $13.7 million when Sunrise was forced into bankruptcy by debt collectors in 2008.  

Fazal Mahmood, a victim who says he lost more than $200,000, tells the Associated Press that he will never trust anyone with his money again. 

I'm a Muslim and he's a Muslim. I was always taught ... a Muslim will never cheat another Muslim, he said. Mahmood, who is not related to Amjed Mahmood, adds that the money he lost was money he was saving to put his daughters’ through college.   “A lot of people lost their homes, they went through divorces -- some lost their kids.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago announced that Ibrahim and Zahid promised their investors annual returns of between 15 and 30 percent.  

“A key element in securing the charges was the extraordinary cooperation provided by members of Chicago’s Pakistani community, who were the primary victims of this alleged fraud scheme,” Grant said.

The federal indictment against the defendants claims they used funds to operate non-real estate projects, such as a gas station in La Grange, a medical equipment sales company in Chicago, and a motorcycle parts manufacturing company in Pakistan.

Ibrahim purportedly also spent investor funds on land for a new home, personal vehicles, and to bankroll an Islamic school that the indictment said was meant to “enhance his reputation in the community.”

Zahid renovated his home on investors’ dime, and Mahmood used investor funds to make mortgage payments on his condominium.  

Ibrahim and Zahid are charged together with seven counts of mail fraud or wire fraud and one count of bank fraud.  Ibrahim was charged alone with two additional counts of bank fraud, as well as two counts of making false statements to financial institutions.  Zahid alone was charged with one count of making false statements to a financial institution.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of at least $43.7 million from them.  Mahmood is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud.  Each count in the indictment, except the conspiracy count against Mahmood, carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.  Federal investigators are actively searching for Ibrahim and Zahid. 

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Ibrahim and Zahid is encouraged to contact the FBI at (312) 421-6700. 

Some people say he [Ibrahim] is living well somewhere, maybe in Dubai or Pakistan, Fazal Mahmood said. It makes me angry that he might be living a good life somewhere.”

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