By Vakkas Dogantekin
ANKARA (AA) - Local media reported Thursday, a Turkish-American car dealer in New Jersey who pleaded guilty last week in federal court to his role in an international conspiracy to steal millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Defense, is linked to Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), a designated terror group by Turkey.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said Hurriyet Arslan, a resident of Willingboro and native of Turkey, who obtained U.S. citizenship in 2011, conspired with Turkish nationals in 2018 to steal money from a Defense Department contract worth more than $23 million for aviation fuel to be supplied by a company in South Korea, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Sources who know Arslan well told Forum USA, a local daily owned by Turkish-Americans, that he had long been connected to FETO and had often attended to the affairs of the secretive, criminal cult.
FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen is accused of orchestrating the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 against the elected government of Turkey, which left 251 people dead and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
Speaking to Forum USA on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from FETO members in the U.S., sources said Arslan had attended high-level meetings of the FETO group.
Another source, who noted he knew Arslan "closely," said he had served as a "house imam" in a FETO-owned dwelling when he first came to the U.S.
According to court documents, officials accused Arslan of starting a bank account for his Florence business, Deal Automotive Sales, to fraudulently receive contract funding and of opening a shell company and related bank accounts as part of the scheme.
Arslan, 49, was offered $20,000 for his participation in the scheme, according to the indictment.
The Department of Justice detailed the documents filed in this case and statements made in court Jan. 6.
He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud, one count of bank fraud and one count of money laundering.
Arslan may serve up to 30 years in jail, according to the Department of Justice, when he is sentenced April 13.