Donor sues imam at heart of controversy over mosque near Ground Zero
NEW YORK — The imam who was a lightning rod during heated debate over a planned mosque near Ground Zero used millions of dollars in contributions to his separate charity for pricey vacations, a sports car and other personal expenses, a donor says in a lawsuit that comes after the imam accused the contributor of defrauding him.
The new suit, filed this week in a Manhattan state court, deepens a financial feud between Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf and Robert Leslie Deak, a businessman who for a time backed Rauf in efforts to foster public understanding of Islam. Rauf has been pursuing his own claims against Deak in a federal court since 2011.
Rauf co-led efforts to build the lower Manhattan Islamic center for a time in 2010, when the proposal became a flashpoint for protests in the lead-up to the Sept. 11 anniversary that year. Rauf's role in the as-yet-unbuilt project was reduced in January 2011, and it's unclear what his role is now; a spokesman for the organizers didn't immediately return a call Tuesday evening.
The legal fight between Rauf and Deak concerns Rauf's own organizations, chiefly the Cordoba Initiative.
Deak, in the new suit, says Rauf bought himself real estate, took trips with a woman other than his wife and bought gifts with $167,000 that Deak provided for an education project intended to combat anti-Islamic sentiment.
The $20 million fraud suit says Rauf also misused $3 million the Malaysian government gave Cordoba. The Malaysian embassy had no immediate comment Tuesday evening.
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.