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Need for Current Property Appraisal Delays Tourist Shop Owner's Release

ORLANDO — The release from jail of a Palestinian-American businessman was delayed Thursday while his family obtained a current appraisal of the property that will be used to secure his $10 million bond.

Jesse Maali, the millionaire owner of a tourist shop and restaurant empire in Orlando, had expected to be freed after spending a week in jail for his arrest on immigration violation and conspiracy charges.

But a hearing to review the source of his bond was delayed Thursday so appraisers could examine the property. It has not been rescheduled.

"There is still some paperwork to be finished," said Sami Qubty, Maali's friend and the president of Orlando's Arab American Community Center. "Everyone is disappointed. We had hoped he would be out by now."

Maali, who has been charged with money laundering and 54 counts of violating immigration laws, was granted bond earlier this week after a federal magistrate dismissed FBI concerns that he was tied to terrorism.

Prosecutors have accused the 57-year-old businessman of providing money to terrorist organizations.

Maali's attorney, Mark NeJame, said his client will not be hurt by the large bond figure.

"It's going to be cheaper than a $1,000 bail in state court because he doesn't have to pay 10 percent to a bondsman," NeJame said. "He'll get 100 percent of it back."

Land valued at $8 million will cover most of the bond, NeJame said. The other $2 million will be a certified check from Maali's five Ponderosa Steakhouse franchises.

When free on bond, Maali will have to remain in central Florida and wear an electronic monitoring device. But officials may have a problem keeping track of Maali's whereabouts, since the tracking device has a limited range and may not be accessible in half of Maali's 10,500-square foot home.

Copyright © 2002, Naples Daily News
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