TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A member of Tampa’s Sligh Mosque says leadership at the mosque did not do enough to protect the congregation’s children from a youth leader now facing child molestation charges.
Wahid “Wade” Abawi says he attended a meeting “several years ago” that involved a discussion about former youth director Ehab Moustafa Ghoneim.

“They ignored the warnings,” Abawi said, “I was at those meetings and the leadership decided to do nothing.”

Pinellas Park Police have charged Ghoneim, 52, with 4 counts of molestation involving multiple victims.
Mosque Operations Manager Abu Omar denied Abawi’s allegation and said leaders of the mosque did not ignore warnings about Ghoniem.

Ehab Ghoniem – courtesy Pinellas Park Police

Omar said Ghoniem was properly vetted and, “his background check came out pretty good, all the organizations he worked for.”

Records show before Ghoniem volunteered at ISTABA, as the Mosque is known, he was employed by a New Jersey non-profit organization that works with the developmentally disabled.

A representative for that entity said law enforcement has not inquired about Ghoniem.

Ghoniem, of Pinellas Park, has not responded to requests for comment, but court filings connected to a civil suit indicate he’s denied the molestation allegations.

The lone plaintiff in the civil case is identified as John Doe No. 1, who claims he prayed with Ghoniem and trusted him as a spiritual leader.

The lawsuit alleges Ghoniem betrayed that trust during a sleepover the youth director hosted at his Pinellas Park home following a basketball game.

“During his sleep, [Ghoniem] initiated inappropriate sexual contact, including touching John Doe No. 1’s genitals,” the court documents claim.

The lawsuit also alleges Ghoniem hosted several sleepovers at his home and offered children pills to help them sleep.

“But these pills were sedatives in order for [Ghoniem] to take sexual advantage of John Doe No. 1,” court alleged.

The plaintiff is seeking a jury trial and compensation in excess of $5 million.

Attorney Sam Badawi said evidence will show leaders of the Mosque ignored warning signs.

“Multiple families approached the board, the leadership, and they failed to act,” Badawi said.