PINELLAS CO., Fla. (WFLA) — The former youth director of the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay (ISTABA) who is accused of sexually assaulting five minors has been extradited back to Pinellas County.
Ehab Ghoneim, 51, of Pinellas Park, is charged with three counts of unlawful sexual activity with minors and is currently held in the county jail with bond set at $450,000. Ghoneim was brought back to Florida from Chicago, where he was arrested by federal agents after returning from a trip to Egypt.
Pinellas Park police said Ghoneim met the children at the East Sligh Avenue mosque in Tampa. A civil lawsuit filed by one of the victims accuses ISTABA of concealing the crimes from its congregation
The lone plaintiff in the civil case is identified as John Doe No. 1, who claims he prayed with Ghoneim and trusted him as a spiritual leader.
Doe said Ghoneim betrayed that trust during a sleepover the youth director hosted at his Pinellas Park home following a basketball event.
“During his sleep, [Ghoneim] initiated inappropriate sexual contact, including touching John Doe No. 1’s genitals,” the lawsuit alleges.
According to the complaint, Ghoneim hosted several sleepovers at his home and offered children pills to help them sleep.
“But these pills were sedatives in order for [Ghoneim] to take sexual advantage of John Doe No. 1,” the lawsuit claims.
The plaintiff is seeking a jury trial and compensation in excess of $5 million. His attorney Sam Badawi said evidence will show the organization ignored warning signs.
“Multiple families approached the board, the leadership, and they failed to act,” Badawi said.
Badawi, Pinellas Park police and ISTABA have asked others with information about Ghoneim to step forward.
While the lawsuit details Doe No. 1’s allegations, it also claims “multiple boys” were molested.
The number of victims has not increased from five, according to Pinellas Park Police, but Badawi said he believes the total could be in the “double digits.”
Before he volunteered at ISTABA, records show Ghoneim worked for a New Jersey non-profit organization that works with the developmentally disabled. A spokesperson for that entity said law enforcement has not inquired about Ghoneim.
ISTABA has not yet responded to requests for comment about the lawsuit but said in its statement that the organization learned about the criminal case “approximately four months ago” and at that time “barred” Ghoneim from entering the Sligh mosque.