Gateway Academy Charter School Scam

Senior Fuqra operative Khadijah Ghafur (born as Deanna Moton and with another alias of Deanna Baqi), a very close associate of Sheikh Gilani’s, was convicted in 2006 for running a massive charter school scam involving a dozen schools under the name of the Gateway Academy. At least $1.3 million in state funding went missing.

The president and treasurer of MOA was listed at the Baladullah commune where Gateway Academy’s headquarters was located. Garfur was simultaneously the president of Gateway and the official secretary for MOA. She was also the wife of the aforementioned Abdullah Baqi.

Ghafur converted to Islam in college and claims to have organized the delivery of medicine and clothes to refugees in Kashmir and Bosnia. In 1995, she was the president of an organization based in Fresno named the Women International Network.

In 2001, she donated $1,000 to the Republican Party to attend a fundraiser featuring President Bush. However, just one year prior, she filed for bankruptcy and claimed to only be earning $1,123 per month.

The Gateway Academy charter was approved of in October 1998. It received its first $250,000 grant from the state in 2000 and reported enrolling 200 students at two schools in Fresno in the 2000-2001 school year.

There were a dozen Gateway campuses, including three in Oakland, Sunnyvale and Pimona that the oversight authorities were not informed about. The authorities overseeing charter schools thought that only a few were opening and were surprised when they learned of new satellite schools opening without approval. The size of the operation and distance between the schools made it extremely difficult to conduct oversight.

Reporters were initially denied access to the schools. A local reporter was only allowed in once authorities informed them that they were legally required to grant access.

MOA presented the charter schools as secular and one spokesperson even chuckled at the notion that they were Islamic schools. They were then discovered to be giving Islamic religious studies. Their attorney also denied links to Sheikh Gilani or any extremist organization, including Fuqra.

Gateway Academy reported having 1,200 enrolled students in 2002-2003, entitling it to $5.5 million in state funding. It spent $1 million in taxpayer money setting up the schools. Gateway lost its charter school contract in January 2002 for many different violations.

The authorities raided a Gateway school in Sunnyvale for illegally charging tuition and teaching Islam. Investigators saw evidence that significant amounts of the school bank account were being inexplicably taken out, the school was hiring convicted felons and lying about the number of students enrolled in order to receive more state funding.

Gateway fraudulently received at least $1.3 million in total. Gateway said it expected a student enrollment of 1,200 students for the next year and could have received $5.6 million if the prosecution hadn’t happened.

Three Gateway officials—Superintendent Khadijah Ghafur, chief administrative officer Naazim Hamed and board member Kehinde Solwazi—were arrested in November 2004.

Ghafur was found guilty of misappropriation of public funds, grand theft by embezzlement, theft by false pretenses, failing to file a tax return and filing a false tax return. She then sued the school district for $6.5 million claiming that the revocation of Gateway Academy’s contract was due to Islamophobia.

It is believed that Ghafur funneled money stolen through the scam to Sheikh Gilani in Pakistan.

In 2002, a senior Pakistani police officer in Lahore said that Shiekh Gilani had received a “huge amount of money” from California.

The investigation found that Ghafur send money in increments of $5,000 to Salih Ghafur, who she claims she divorced, while he was in Islamabad, Pakistan. A search of her house found evidence indicating the money went to Sheikh Gilani, including letters to Gilani about her overseeing of an “Abu Ji Fund.” MOA members affectionately refer to Gilani as “Abu” or “Abu Ji,” with “Abu” meaning “father.”

A letter to Gilani explained how she was overseeing a network of businesses aimed at providing him with $5,000 monthly for a “steady cash flow to you.” It seems to acknowledge deceptive and criminal activity as it says, “I can’t afford a verified paper trail against me that would stop my service and dedication to you.”