A Forest Hills jewelry dealer was arraigned last week in federal court in Manhattan on charges of transmitting money in a scheme to deal shoulder-fired missiles to terrorists, said a federal court official.
Yehuda Abraham, 75, of 69-54 Ingram St., was arrested early last week by FBI officials for allegedly being part of an operation to sell a missile launcher that could be used to shoot down a commercial airliner, said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District.
A judge at federal district court on Pearl Street in Manhattan set his bail at $10 million, the spokeswoman said, and he was still being held.
Abraham's neighbors were surprised to learn about the accusations against the elderly Jewish gem dealer, who is a father of four.
"They seemed like very nice people. It's very hard for me to believe that he was knowingly involved," said Sylvia Hanna, one of Abraham's neighbors.
Abraham and his wife did not live in their corner-lot Forest Hills house for a good part of the year, said Hanna.
Another neighbor, Bernard Roseman, 74, said it was hard to fathom that Abraham would knowingly buy a missile to shoot at a plane.
Roseman recalled Abraham leading a procession of a few hundred people from his house to a Bukharian temple on 108th Street about five years ago. He was carrying a Torah that he had donated to the temple.
"Some people say that's the perfect cover - donating a Torah," said Roseman. "But basically I have to come down on the side that he's not knowingly involved."
Roseman said he had been in Abraham's house several times. "It's a very nice house. The entrance is something like a mini Taj Mahal. It's marble," said Roseman. "The landscaping is extensive."
Abraham worked at Ambuy Gem Corp., which has an office suite on the 12th floor of a building at 47th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Aside from his business in Manhattan, Abraham also owned shops in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2003 Community News Group
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