A Lexington Islamic leader faces a maximum sentence of life in prison under an indictment returned this week by a federal grand jury.
The grand jury indicted Mahmoud Shaker Shalash, John Sadiqullah and Abdul Hadi on conspiracy charges related to an alleged murder-for-hire plot.
Shalash, 70, is the imam of the Islamic Center of Lexington. His attorney has suggested that an undercover operative entrapped Shalash into a crime he wasn’t inclined to commit.
One charge in the indictment alleges that between April 30 and May 8, the three men broke the law by agreeing to “seize, confine, kidnap, abduct, and carry away” a victim identified only by the initials L.E., as well as a member of L.E.’s family, and to hold the two for ransom.
The other charge alleges that the three, acting “with the intent that a murder be committed,” conspired to cause someone to travel across state lines or use a facility of interstate commerce, such as a phone.
The first charge is punishable by up to life in prison and the second by up to 10 years, according to the indictment.
Sadiqullah allegedly said that L.E. had cheated him and some friends in a business deal and that he wanted L.E. dead.
A man who was secretly working with the FBI met with Shalash and Sadiqulla and recorded statements from them, according to the court record.
Authorities arrested Shalash, Sadiqullah and Hadi earlier this month based on criminal complaints. A grand jury indicted them Wednesday.
The indictment lists several acts that Shalash allegedly took to further the plot, including introducing Sadiqullah to the undercover informant with the knowledge that Sadiqullah had said he wanted to kill L.E., and that the informant had the “means and inclination” to kidnap and hurt others.
Sadiqullah and Hadi allegedly went to L.E.’s business and confronted him over the debt, and Sadiqullah, with Hadi’s knowledge, called the reputed fixer to come and get L.E., the indictment alleged.
The document also charged that Sadiqullah offered to pay the undercover source in exchange for an agreement to kill L.E.
The three men had their initial court appearance Thursday and pleaded not guilty.
Shalash, Sadiqullah and Hadi are being held without bond. They are scheduled for trial in July.
Sadiqullah’s real first name is listed as unknown in court records. He is also known as John, records say. He and Hadi helped the U.S. military in the war in Afghanistan before coming to Kentucky.
The Islamic Center said on its website that Muslims in Lexington were shocked to learn of Shalash’s arrest, and pointed out that citizens are considered innocent until proven guilty in court.
The center also stressed that Islam is a religion built on peace and tolerance and that murder or conspiring to commit murder is regarded in the Quran as a grave sin.