A New Mexico property owner described the squalid desert compound where a man and four other adults were found along with 11 malnourished children as “a mess.” (Aug. 10)
Federal authorities brought conspiracy charges Friday against five former members of a remote New Mexico compound where 11 children were living in filth and the body of a 3-year-old Georgia boy was found.
The charges are the latest in the ongoing saga of the compound and its residents, a ramshackle group of men, women and children who were found living off of potatoes and a box of rice amid a cache of guns, including an AR-15 rifle, according to officials.
All five people arrested Friday will remain in custody pending a Tuesday hearing in federal court.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque said compound resident Jany Leveille has been charged with being an alien unlawfully in possession of firearms and ammunition. She is a Haitian national.
The other four members are charged with conspiring with Leveille.
State charges of child abuse resulting in death were dropped against Leveille and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj in connection with the child whose body was found earlier this month in an underground tunnel at the compound near the Colorado state line.
Taos County District Attorney Donald Gallegos said Friday his office will now seek grand jury indictments involving the death.
Gallegos said seeking indictments will allow more time to gather evidence.
Earlier this week, Judge Emilio Chavez ruled in Taos County that three defendants could no longer be held because prosecutors missed a 10-day limit for a hearing to establish probable cause for the neglect charges.
The victim, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, was allegedly abducted by his father from Jonesboro, Georgia in December.
Warrants for Siraj’s arrest claimed he took his son to perform an exorcism on the child, who was seriously disabled, and was denying him medication.
The sheriff said when they had learned about the possible compound, the FBI conducted surveillance of the area, but had no legal basis to conduct a raid. Abdul-Ghani was never spotted during the surveillance.
Law enforcement offices finally raided the compound Aug. 3 after Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe’s office received a message, thought to have come from someone inside, saying, “We are starving and need food and water.”
“I absolutely knew that we couldn’t wait on another agency to step up and we had to go check this out as soon as possible,” Hogrefe said, according to The Associated Press.
Siraj was arrested with another Atlanta man, Lucas Morten, along with Leville, Hurah Wahhaj, 38, and Subhannah Wahhabj, 35.
After the raid, officials also presented several pieces of evidence, including alleged manuals on how to build untraceable weapons. In addition, according to testimony, some of the 11 children were handling ammunition and a least one child was armed, WXIA-TV reported.
In a 2006 federal court filing obtained by the Associated Press, Wahhaj identified himself as “the son of the famous Muslim Imam Siraj Wahhaj.” In the filing, the younger Wahhaj said he was harassed by customs agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport before and after a trip to Morocco, the AP reported.
A drone provides a view of the New Mexico compound where 11 children were found living in filth and squalor. Five adults were arrested on child abuse charges. Authorities have not confirmed the identity of a child whose remains were found there. (Aug. 10)
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