Lexington religious leader, two others face judge for alleged murder-for-hire plot

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A religious leader in Lexington is now facing federal charges for his role in an alleged murder-for-hire plot. Two other men are facing similar charges.

From left: Mahmoud Shalash, John Sadiqullah, and Abdul Hadi (Photos: Woodford County Detention Center)

Mahmoud Shalash, John Sadiqullah, and Adbul Hadi stood before a judge on Tuesday evening. Shalash is an imam at the Islamic Center of Lexington.

The affidavit says Shalash contacted a man on March 12 to help settle a debt. What he didn’t know was that man was working with the FBI.

Investigators say they have audio and video recordings of the two men meeting at a motel. Shalash allegedly said, “Do whatever you have to do to get my money back.'”

Then, on April 30th, the men met again to discuss another potential victim. This time they also met with a man who prosecutors believe is John Sadiqullah. They say there's no video showing Sadiqullah, but they recognized his voice and phone number in an audio recording saying, "If someone could kill him for $10,000, we all four will pay someone $10,000."

Sadiqullah was allegedly referencing four other men involved in the business transaction, including Abdul Hadi, the third defendant.

Hadi is accused of threatening the second victim at the man's home and business, but was not including in any meetings or recordings.

His attorney, John Oakley II, says lot of new information came forward during the hearing.

"At this stage of the process, we don't really receive a whole lot of discovery. We're not entitled to it,” Oakley explains. “So all we had was a criminal complaint and a supporting affidavit, but through all the testimony I think it really brought to life the strength of the government's case in my opinion."

Witnesses were called to the stand to discuss the suspects' characters, as they hope they'll be released while waiting for trial.

The judge didn't make a decision after almost four hours in the courtroom. He says he'll decide this week to either release the men, or keep them in custody.