Mark Siljander, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1980s, pleaded guilty today to two criminal charges in connection with his work for an Islamic charity that the federal government accuses of funding terrorism.
In an agreement with prosecutors, Siljander pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, said Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri. Siljander entered the pleas in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo.
A sentencing date has not been set, and Siljander was not taken into custody, Ledford said. His trial was set to begin next week.
Siljander represented southwestern Michigan in Congress as a Republican from 1981 to 1987. He later became a lobbyist and consultant, running a firm called Global Strategies Inc. in Washington. The Islamic American Relief Agency of Columbia, Mo., hired Siljander in an attempt to get its name removed from a congressional list of charities suspected of funding international terrorism, prosecutors say.
Siljander, currently of Great Falls, Va., did not register as a foreign agent, but in 2004, he contacted people in Congress and various federal agencies on behalf of the Islamic American Relief Agency.
Several other defendants in the case against the Islamic American Relief Agency have already pleaded guilty to charges related to sending money to Iraq in violation of U.S. sanctions. The former director has admitted that his group was an American branch of an organization based in Sudan.
Prosecutors also say Siljander obstructed justice by lying to FBI agents and prosecutors about whether he was hired to advocate for the group. They also say he falsely claimed that $50,000 in payments from the group was intended to assist him in writing a book about bridging the gap between Islam and Christianity.
A grand jury indictment of Siljander was announced in January 2008. Today’s agreement means the government will, at sentencing, drop charges of conspiracy and money laundering. (The government alleges the $50,000 paid to Siljander was misappropriated from the U.S. Agency for International Development.)
Siljander faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000, prosecutors say.
Lance Sandage, a Kansas City solo practitioner, represents Siljander. “Today, Mark Siljander has accepted responsibility for his conduct in his pleas to an obstruction of justice charge and a violation of a regulatory statute,” Sandage said in a statement. “We would point out that all other charges of money laundering and conspiracy against him will be dismissed, and of course no terrorism charges were alleged against Mark Siljander.”
Updated at 5:07 p.m.