Calif woman charged in terrorist funding case

December 22, 2011 - 3:35 AM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California woman was indicted on federal charges alleging she sent money to Pakistan to help fund terrorist attacks against U.S. military personnel, authorities said.

Oytun Ayse Mihalik, 39, of La Palma, was named Wednesday in a four-count indictment. She faces three counts of providing material support to terrorists and one count of making a false statement. Mihalik could face up to 53 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Mihalik funneled about $2,000 to a person in Pakistan over a three-week period beginning late last year, knowing the money would be used to prepare for and carry out attacks against the U.S. military and others overseas, federal prosecutors said.

Mihalik, who worked as a pharmacist, has been in federal custody since she was arrested in August after she attempted to board a flight to Turkey, her native country.

She previously pleaded not guilty to the false statement charge.

Mihalik lied to federal agents during an interview at Los Angeles International Airport following a six-month trip to Turkey by telling them she never used an alias to wire money overseas and she had only sent funds once, authorities said.

She told investigators the money was meant for a family friend who was having financial problems, according to an affidavit. Authorities wouldn't elaborate about how they know the money Mihalik wired overseas was going to be used for terrorist attacks.

However, court documents reveal Mihalik's arrest is "related to national security investigations in other areas of the United States." As of August, Mihalik had been cooperating with investigators, records show.

"The charges are based on the defendant's intent to cause harm to U.S. military personnel," said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles. "We have not alleged any attacks that may have resulted from the funding because the legal issue is the defendant's intent as to what the money would be used for."

Defense attorney Alan Eisner said no new evidence has been offered up by prosecutors since his client's arrest four months ago, and the money sent overseas was donated to charity.

"The evidence will show she's not funding a terrorist organization," Eisner said.

A trial on the false statement charge was set for February. Mihalik will be arraigned on the new charges at a later date.