Moors Uses Religion To Defend Money Order Forging Scheme

Officials Say $50 Million In Money Orders Were Forged

NBC 10/May 9, 2003

Camden, N.J. -- Nine people have been charged in an elaborate money order scam.

Federal officials said that the people in the group were using forged money orders to pay bills, mortgages and investment loans. They also bought tickets on the Concorde jet to Europe and paid off expensive cars and casino debts.

The defendants from Philadelphia and South New Jersey claimed that their religion excuses them from obeying the law.

Federal agents started rounding up suspects around 7 a.m. Friday.

The U.S. Attorney said that everyone charged belongs to a religious group called the Al Moroccan Empire or Moors.

"The essence of the group is their belief that they are not subject to the laws of the United States, but that they are owed money from the citizens and the government of the United States," said Christopher Christie, a U.S. Attorney.

Authorities have charged the group with issuing false money orders, which looked as if they had been signed by the treasury or by the Department of Transportation.

"They were realistic looking, false money orders. The Department of Transportation began to get a number of these money orders back in -- these fake money orders -- for redemption for people they were distributed to. They began to discover these were not their money orders and they called the United States attorney's office in New Jersey," Christie said.

Authorities say Oscar Harris is one of the ringleaders of the group. Harris, alone, allegedly tried to pass $6.5 Million in false money orders.

"The total face value of the money orders they created is $50 million. $10 million is the amount they distributed," Christie said.

Harris, the former head of the Atlantic City Housing authority, allegedly had run-ins with the law before. He had been charged with taking bribes in Atlantic City when James Usary was mayor, and stealing taxpayer funds when he was involved in rebuilding houses on Osage avenue that burned during the MOVE disaster.

Harris and four other members of the Moors said in court that they have no contract with the judge, so they are not giving him permission to make any legal determination. Then they told magistrate Joe Rosen, "You're fired." Rosen said, "Be here next week for a bail hearing."

The bail hearing is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

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