Feds Investigate C-Stores for Terrorism Funding

Aug 14, 2002

Authorities are investigating more than 500 Muslim and Arab small businesses across the United States to determine whether they are dispatching money raised through criminal activity in the United States to terrorist groups overseas, reports The Washington Post. The investigation into these businesses, many of them convenience stores, is part of the post-September 11 probe launched by law enforcement agents who stepped up scrutiny of small-scale scams suspect of generating tens of millions of dollars a year for militant groups, according to federal officials.

Schemes include skimming the profits of drug sales, stealing and reselling baby formula, illegally redeeming huge quantities of grocery coupons, collecting fraudulent welfare payments, swiping credit card numbers and selling unlicensed T-shirts. Investigators are searching for similarities in the convenience stores’ financial practices and how they transfer money to determine whether their activities are centrally directed, reports the Post.

Lindsay Hutter, NACS senior vice president of communications and public relations responded to the report by saying, “As the first anniversary of 9/11 approaches, this behavior could have the very negative impact of increasing ethnic hostility against the many ethnically diverse, yet patriotic Americans that work in our industry.” As a result, NACS will update its Preventing Ethnic Hostility Guide. The guide was released last September following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington to help member companies protect ethnic employees from racial slurs and assaults.

Moderator Comment: What is your reaction to reported investigations into terrorism links within the convenience store industry?

To our knowledge, there have not been any Muslim operators
of convenience stores or any of their suppliers, regardless of nationality,
charged with supplying aid to a terrorist organization.

We understand the common sense aspect of investigating
groups seen as most likely to be engaged in this activity. We are troubled,
however, by what appears to be a rush to judgement. Even the quoted response
from NACS seems to assume that there are guilty parties somewhere within the
convenience store industry.

Having been raised on stories from the North of Ireland
where individuals were assumed to be enemies of the state simply because they
were Catholic, we can only hope that the same does not happen here. Let innocence
or guilt be decided in the courts, not in the media or the forum of public opinion.
Anderson – Moderator

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