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Two leaders of a city mosque snared in an FBI sting involving a fictional terror strike could face decades in prison when they are sentenced Thursday in federal court.
Yassin Aref, the former imam at an Albany mosque, and pizzeria owner Mohammed Hossain were convicted in October for their role in a money laundering scheme involving an FBI informant who pretended to be an illegal arms dealer.
The informant asked Hossain to launder money from the sale of a shoulder-fired missile that would be used to kill a Pakistani diplomat in New York City. Aref, spiritual leader of Hossain's mosque, acted as a witness to the transactions.
Though the assassination plot was fictional, prosecutors in 2004 accused the pair of supporting terrorism.
Hossain, 52, a naturalized US citizen from Bangladesh, was convicted on all 27 charges against him, including three counts of conspiracy.
Aref was found guilty of 10 of the 30 charges against him. In addition to counts related to the money laundering scheme, the 36-year-old Kurdish refugee was found guilty of lying to FBI agents about having known a terrorist leader, Mullah Krekar, when he worked for a Kurdish political organization in Syria.
Assistant US Attorney William Pericak has said both men face 30 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. Defense attorneys Terence Kindlon and Kevin Luibrand have sought more lenient sentences for the two men, who are both raising families.
Pericak had argued during trial that Hossain wanted money, while Aref was drawn into the plot by ideology.
Defense attorneys claimed the transactions were innocent, noting that Muslims often lend money to each other with clerics serving as witnesses. Aref and Hossain said they didn't believe any talk about a missile in New York.
U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy last month rejected defense arguments in a decision denying a request for a new trial.