‘Chicago Company Swindled Muslims’

Chicago: State regulators say they are investigating a development firm suspected of bilking Muslim investors, many from an Indian and Pakistani neighborhood, out of as much as $50 million.
The Illinois Secretary of State’s Securities Department last week issued a temporary order preventing anyone from buying or selling assets of Sunrise Equities Inc., a Chicago-based real estate development firm whose CEO disappeared last month.
Salman Ibrahim allegedly persuaded up to 200 investors, many from a large Indian and Pakistani neighborhood on the city’s North Side, to invest their savings or mortgage their homes to help fund real estate ventures.
Some investors suspect that Ibrahim, who was a well-known member of Chicago’s South Asian community, has returned to Pakistan. Many fear they have lost their life’s savings.
Securities Department Director Tanya Solov said investigators may work with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan or the US Attorney’s office to pursue criminal charges.
She said the company appears to have used Ibrahim’s position in the community to specifically target Muslims.
‘‘The victims have something in common with the perpetrators so there’s tremendous trust,’’ she said. ‘‘We don’t get notified until they don’t get paid, the offices are shut down and the perpetrators can’t be located.’’
Ms Solov said Ibrahim gave investors unsecured promissory notes that his company wasn’t licensed to issue. The notes don’t provide collateral and, with Ibrahim gone, are impossible to collect on.
The company, Ms Solov, said doesn’t have a lawyer. No one answered at a number listed for Ibrahim’s last known residence. Messages left at the home of Sunrise senior vice-president Amjed Mahmood weren’t returned. A number for senior vice-president Mohammad Akbar Zahid couldn’t be located.
Salman Azam, an attorney representing the investors, has filed a petition for involuntary bankruptcy against Sunrise to freeze the company’s assets and hold them for investors. The state’s action speeds up that process, he said.
‘‘I think that this is the best thing that could’ve happened,’’ Mr Azam said. ‘‘It brings some relief to the investors.’’



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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