Saturday, February 09, 2008


Unlicensed lawyer at center of dispute
By Anne Krueger

EL CAJON – A dispute over who is entitled to a $1.1 million insurance settlement has delayed the rebuilding of an El Cajon mosque and Kurdish cultural center that burned down in August 2006.

A Los Angeles-area man who says he represents the Saudi Arabian owner of the property doesn't want to split the proceeds with a company that helped arrange the settlement.

A lawyer for the insurers says the representative shouldn't receive the settlement money – let alone decide where it goes – because he isn't a licensed attorney.

“It's just a mess,” said Derrick Sturm, attorney for Amco Insurance, who filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court seeking to resolve the situation.

The building on Magnolia Avenue housed a mosque – a house of prayer for East County Muslims – and the Kurdish Community Islamic Center before it was destroyed in an early morning fire Aug. 17, 2006.

El Cajon fire officials never determined the cause of the fire, but said its origin was not suspicious. The FBI and other federal authorities were called in to investigate the fire because it occurred at a place of worship.

The property where the mosque once stood is a barren patch of land. The people who used to convene there now say their prayers at other mosques around the county.

The owner of the property is Saad A.S. Al-Habeeb Inc., a corporation owned by Saad al-Habeeb, who lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The mosque was in the news soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the FBI investigated Omar al-Bayoumi, whom al-Habeeb had hired as the building's maintenance manager.

FBI agents wanted to know whether al-Bayoumi helped set up a terrorist cell in San Diego and aided two 9/11 hijackers when they lived here.

Al-Bayoumi, who denied any connection to terrorism, had left San Diego County for England in 2000. He was arrested in England but released a week later without charges being filed.

After the August 2006 fire, trustees of the mosque hired Pacific Public Adjusting to negotiate the claim with Amco, which insured the building. The contract called for Pacific to receive 3 percent of the insurance claim.


Pertinent Links:

1) Unlicensed lawyer at center of dispute

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