(RNS) — A Muslim leader who spent the past several years leading a small national following from a federal prison has been released early due to the coronavirus.

Imam Earl Abdulmalik Mohammed claims to be the rightful ideological successor of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, the massively influential black Muslim leader who shepherded the Nation of Islam toward orthodox Sunni Islam under a new association, the American Society of Muslims.

Earl Abdulmalik Mohammed, who was W. Deen Mohammed’s national representative for 15 years, was released from custody on May 7 after serving seven years of a nine-year sentence for mail fraud. In 2014, he pleaded guilty to swindling more than $6 million from customers purchasing precious metals online.

The federal correctional complex in Butner, North Carolina,

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