Philadelphia Daily News
Oct. 21, 2004

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FARIDAH ALI should have paid closer attention to the students registering for adult basic education classes at a West Philadelphia religious school.

Four FBI agents, including case agents Jesse Coleman and Kevin Lewis, were registered as students at the ABE classes at Sister Clara Muhammad School - the program they were investigating for no-show teachers.

Coleman and Lewis were leading the fraud investigation into $224,000 in public money from Community College of Philadelphia for the adult basic education program at the West Philadelphia school.

Yesterday, four agents' names, including those using aliases, were identified as registered students during the federal fraud trial of Ali, 55, her daughter, Lakiha "KiKi" Spicer, 28, son Azheem "Osh" Spicer, 30 and Eugene Weaver III, 30.

Another registered student was Ali's sister, Zahnah Rasool, the site supervisor for the adult basic education program, who had signed up for a three-hour "enrichment" class four days a week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek pointed out.

But the real drama occurred in a faceoff between Kevin Howard, a slender man in his 20s in a gray suit, who testified against his "auntie" Faridah Ali, dressed in blue Muslim garb, sitting across the courtroom.

Howard testified Ali asked him while at his grandmother's funeral to teach adult basic education one summer.

He was working on his master's degree at Johns Hopkins University but figured he could drive from his Maryland home on weekends to teach.

He filled out the CCP teacher application and mailed it to his aunt at Sister Clara Muhammad School.

Next thing he knew, he said, he was receiving CCP checks in the mail - without having done any work.

So he called Aunt Faridah to tell her: "I feel bad. I wanna do something," according to an FBI wiretapped conversation on July 5, 2001.

"Oh well, we'll come up with something," Ali told him. "Don't feel bad."

His aunts, Faridah and Zaynah, then arranged for him to send his proper Social Security number to the college so he would be paid properly for doing nothing, according to the tapped call.

Howard testified he never taught any classes, yet received $19,000 in pay.

He said he had repaid $7,500 to CCP, was repaying the rest, and was testifying with a grant of immunity.

Under cross-examination by Ali's attorney J. Garfield Giles, Howard admitted that his testimony at the grand jury was inconsistent with the taped conversation.

He told the grand jury that Ali had advised him to put a packet of educational materials together to earn his pay, but he acknowledged that on the tape it was Rasool, his other aunt, who had advised him.

Howard sent in the educational materials.

Howard was then bombarded with a series of questions by Lakiha Spicer's attorney, Tariq El-Shabazz: You felt bad? You spent the money? You cashed the checks?

Howard answered yes to each.

The defense team has repeatedly asserted in its cross-examination that Delores Weaver, the ex-administrator who headed CCP's adult basic education, was responsible for hiring, registration of students and monitoring of the program - not Ali.

Weaver will be tried separately.

Assistant CCP dean Carolynne Martin said she reported to Weaver registration discrepancies - the same handwriting and addresses used for several students.

Ali responded in a letter to CCP that an investigation by Rasool - her sister - found that it was the work of "an overzealous student."

All ABE teachers had to have a bachelor's degree, according to CCP policy.

Beverly Abdus-Sabur testified that the Muslim Teachers College in Randolph, Va. never issued a marketing degree for Ali's son, Azheem Spicer.

"We can only give a degree in Muslim education," she said. The school has not been in operation since the 1998-1999 school year.

Also, yesterday a CCP controller testified that CCP sent eight rental checks totalling $83,000 to Ali's home in Melrose park, not Sister Clara Muhamad School where the classes took place.