Cedar Rapids man gets probation for bilking victims out of cash with fake stories of family deaths

Alan Farha told churches, others about family deaths in Middle East

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A former Cedar Rapids man, who deceived some church congregations and others in the community with false stories about his family being killed in Syria or Israel to solicit money from them, was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution.

Alan Farha, 41, pleaded guilty to second-degree theft in October. During the plea, he admitted to taking money from about 10 individuals or groups in April and June by telling the false stories and asking the victims for help with expenses. Farha used the money to support his drug addiction.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Ian Thornhill on Tuesday sentenced Farha to five years in prison but suspended it and gave him three years probation, in accordance with the plea agreement. Farha also was ordered to pay $1,200 in victim’s restitution, which he paid in full before sentencing, as well as a $750 fine.

Thornhill also ordered Farha to enter a community correctional facility in Fort Dodge, where he has family support, as soon as there is bed space. Farha will live at a men’s shelter until he can get into the facility, as agreed upon by his lawyer and the prosecutor.

During the sentencing, Farha apologized for his actions while living in Cedar Rapids earlier this year. He apologized to the victims and to the court for being a “burden” on the system.

Cory Goldensoph, Farha’s lawyer, said Farha has been working hard to “live a clean and sober lifestyle.” Farha has attended about 50 to 60 Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings from August to Nov. 15. He also has a therapist for his mental health issues and is taking anti-craving medications for his drug addiction.

Assistant Linn County Attorney Jason Besler said he offered the plea because Farha has made a serious effort to battle his drug addiction. Besler also noted that Farha paying all of his restitution as soon as possible was a factor in him making a recommendation for probation. The largest amount of money Farha took was $500 from one church.

Farha was on probation for another similar crime in Minnesota but that offense also seemed to be motivated by his drug addiction, Besler added.

Thornhill warned Farha to follow the rules while on probation because he won’t have a problem with revoking probation and sending him to prison if he has violations.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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