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Terrorists may have gotten lottery funds

March 7, 2003 at 2:17 PM

CINCINNATI, March 7 (UPI) -- An Akron businessman has been accused of diverting nearly $500,000 raised by illegal instant bingo lottery ticket sales to Islamic terrorists in Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Philip George Jr., 43, a Lebanese Christian born in the United States, was sentenced to 25 years in prison in Cincinnati Thursday for skimming money from the lottery, which operated from 1997 to 2000. He was convicted of 11 counts of gambling, money laundering and conspiracy last week.

During the sentencing hearing it was revealed state investigators are following the money from the pull-tab lottery game that was supposed to benefit Ohio charities to find out if some of the proceeds went to terrorist groups.

"George used the lottery to accumulate money that went overseas," Harold Torrens, an investigator for the Ohio Department of Public Safety testified at the trial.

Torrens said at least $234,000 was diverted from the lottery to the United Saghbeen Society. The Cincinnati Enquirer said the Saghbeen Society, which reportedly has ties to the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, might have received another $250,000 cash.

"There were wire transfers going over there in large amounts of money," Torrens said.

Robert Gutzwiller, George's lawyer, said his client has no ties to terrorists and no reason to help terrorists. He said the funds were given to a Catholic girls school in Lebanon through the Saghbeen Society.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said George's conduct was "reprehensible."

"He made people think the money was going to charity, when it really was going to line somebody's pockets or possibly to fund a terrorist organization," Allen said.

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Topics: Mike Allen
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