Miami feds fight defense plan to question witnesses in Pakistan for South Florida terrorism case

October 22, 2012

The Miami Herald on October 21, 2012 released the following:

“Federal prosecutors are fighting the defense’s plan to question key witnesses in Pakistan in a Miami case accusing two South Florida Muslim clerics of aiding the Taliban.

BY JAY WEAVER []

Two South Florida Muslim clerics — a father and son separated by more than 50 years in age — are struggling to persuade a Miami federal judge to allow their lawyers to travel to Pakistan to question alleged Taliban sympathizers who might help their defense against terrorism charges.

Lawyers for Hafiz Khan and Izhar Khan, former imams of mosques in Miami and Margate, have already lost their first bid to travel with federal prosecutors to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to take depositions from five witnesses who do not want to come to Miami to testify at the upcoming trial.

Among the potential witnesses are two other Khan family members and another suspected Taliban supporter who were accused in the same case of conspiring to aid the Taliban with money and guns.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola rejected the defense’s initial deposition plan — which was strongly opposed by federal prosecutors — as “unsafe and impractical.” But Scola left open the possibility for the defense’s alternative: allowing the Khans’ lawyers to question the witnesses at a hotel such as the Marriott in Islamabad in a live, videotaped deposition with the prosecutors participating from Miami.

“If there is a way for you to take their deposition, I’m going to let you do it,” Scola said, setting the stage for a final hearing Oct. 29.

The clock is ticking, however, because the “material-support” trial that initially drew national headlines is scheduled for early January. Bottom line, the defense said: No deposition, no fair trial.

“These witnesses are so important if we’re going to have any defense,” Izhar Khan’s lawyer, Joseph Rosenbaum, told the judge. “Without [the deposition], we don’t have a shot.”

Rosenbaum argued that that the prosecutors oppose any deposition of the Pakistani witnesses because their testimony could poke holes in the government’s case, which is built on phone recordings of the Khan family’s alleged network of fundraising for the Taliban, a U.S.-designated terrorist group.

He further argued that witnesses would provide “context” for the phone calls, proving that the defendants wired about $50,000 from Miami to Pakistan to aid schools and families in the embattled northwest territory known as the Swat Valley — not to fund the Taliban’s violence against the U.S. government interests in the region.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Pat Sullivan and John Shipley said in court they were opposed to any deposition, even if it were taken at a modern hotel in Islamabad. They declined to say why at Thursday’s hearing.

In court documents, they opposed the defense’s initial deposition plan, saying Pakistan is dangerous and that the witnesses could not be questioned at the U.S. Embassy because of their involvement in the alleged crime of aiding the Taliban. A fourth witness for the defense, Noor Mohammed, is suspected of being a Taliban soldier, and a fifth is a Pakistani pharmacist who received some of the money transfers from Hafiz Khan’s foreign bank accounts.

On Thursday, the prosecutors called an FBI witness who served at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad over the past year to testify about the safety risks of taking the deposition there as well as outside the diplomatic zone.

In court papers, they argued: “The entirety of the government’s case against these defendants concerns the Pakistani Taliban’s hostility, animosity and lethality towards United States citizens.”

By contrast, Rosenbaum called two female professors from the University of Colorado and University of Illinois who testified that Islamabad was a modern city of diplomats, business people and relative wealth. The witnesses said the city would be safe for both prosecutors and defense attorneys to conduct the deposition in an off-site hotel.

But Scola kept raising the question about whether it would be safe for U.S. prosecutors to travel to Pakistan if the public knew the purpose of the trip: Gathering testimony for a high-profile terrorism trial in Miami against alleged Taliban supporters.

“The question is whether it is safe for prosecutors to go to Pakistan,” said Scola, who also noted the well-known case of a teenage girl, Malala Yousufzai, who was recently shot in the head by the Taliban to silence her because she advocated education for girls.

The Miami terrorism indictment was filed with much fanfare in May 2011. Prosecutors charged Hafiz Khan, 77, former imam of the Flagler Mosque in Miami; Izhar Khan, 25, the one-time leader of the Masjid Jammat Al-Mumineen mosque in Margate; his sister, Amina Khan; her son, Alam Zeb; and Ali Rehman with conspiring to provide financial support for the Taliban from 2008 to 2010.

In June of this year, prosecutors dropped the charges against the elder Khan’s son, Irfan Khan, a one-time Miami cab driver, without explanation. Khan, a 39-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, had been detained for almost a year before obtaining bail last April.

The FBI used a confidential informant, bank transfer records and more than 1,000 wiretapped phone calls to build the case against the Khan family and others.

In Pakistan, Hafiz Kahn’s daughter, Amina, and her son, Zeb, have said the federal case distorted the patriarch’s good deeds to help their family and relatives. Zeb, 20, said money sent from Miami was meant to repair a religious school founded by his grandfather and to help poor relatives rebuild houses damaged in fighting between the Pakistan army and the Taliban.

But the conspiracy indictment portrays Hafiz Khan as a talkative Muslim spiritual leader who solicited thousands of dollars from donors in the United States, directed family members to help disburse them and openly discussed deadly plots against foes who disagreed with strict Islamic law, or Sharia.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Documents provide rare insight into FBI’s terrorism stings

April 16, 2012

The Washington Post on April 13, 2012 released the following:

“By Peter Finn

Days before his arrest in Pittsburgh last month, Khalifa Ali al-Akili posted a remarkable message on his Facebook page: A mysterious man who spoke often of jihad had tried to interest Akili in buying a gun, then later introduced him to a second man, whom Akili was assured was “all about the struggle.”

It smelled, Akili wrote on Facebook, like a setup.

“I had a feeling that I had just played out a part in some Hollywood movie where I had just been introduced to the leader of a ‘terrorist’ sleeper cell,” Akili wrote.

When he googled a phone number provided by the second man, it turned out to be to Shahed Hussain, one of the FBI’s most prolific and controversial informants for terrorism cases. Soon the sting was off; Akili was subsequently arrested on gun — not terrorism — charges, which he has denied.

It was a rare miss for Hussain, 55, who has played a wealthy, dapper member of a Pakistani terrorist group in several FBI operations over nearly a decade.

This role has inflamed Muslim and civil rights activists, who describe Hussain as an “agent provocateur,” and prompted harsh comments from the presiding judge in a 2010 case, who questioned his honesty and the aggressiveness of the FBI’s tactics.

“I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here except the government instigated it, planned it and brought it to fruition,” said U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon at the sentencing of four men from Newburgh, N.Y., convicted on terrorism charges. She added, “That does not mean there was no crime.”

Hussain declined to speak about his work for the FBI, saying in a brief phone interview, “I can’t say anything for security reasons.” The FBI declined to discuss Hussain or McMahon’s comments.

But the blown Pittsburgh sting and the voluminous court records from the 2010 case have provided rare insight into a tactic used increasingly by the FBI since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in which suspects are monitored almost from the beginning of plots and provided with means to help them carry them out. The targets in such stings have included Washington’s Metro subway system, the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.

There have been 138 terrorism or national security cases involving informants since 2001, and 51 of those have come over the past three years, according to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School in New York. The center said the government secured convictions in 91 percent of those cases.

Law enforcement officials say stings are a vital tactic for heading off terrorism. But civil rights activists and others say the FBI has been identifying individuals with radical views who, despite brash talk, might have little ability to launch attacks without the government’s help.

“It almost seems like the government is creating a theatrical event that produces more fear in the community,” said Michael German, a senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union and a former FBI agent who worked undercover.

Yet in these terrorism stings, every attempted defense that has alleged entrapment by the government has failed, according to Fordham’s Center on National Security. The FBI said that record speaks volumes and rejected any suggestion that it has invented terrorist plots. “They present the idea,” FBI spokesman Kathleen Wright said of the targets of investigations. “It is not us coming up with these ideas.”

Officials said the subjects of these stings are the ones who first generate suspicion — by contacting terrorists overseas, attempting to secure weapons or speaking of a desire to commit violence.

One of the prosecutors in the 2010 case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Halperin, said in court that confidential informants such as Hussain are an “important tool” for the FBI. “Mr. Hussain is Pakistani. He speaks Urdu. He speaks Pashto. He’s Muslim. He can read Arabic,” Halperin said. “All of these things make Mr. Hussain a very valuable asset for the FBI.”

The birth of an asset

In testimony for the 2010 terrorism case, for which Hussain appeared as a witness for the prosecution, he described himself as a member of a politically connected family in Pakistan who fled to the United States with his wife and children after he was falsely accused of murder during a government crackdown against the secular MQM party. He arrived on a fake British passport in 1994, Hussain testified.

In the years since, his relatives in Pakistan have transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to him, allowing him and his family to acquire gas stations, a beverage center and a motel in Upstate New York, according to financial records produced in court. He also testified that former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, during a trip to New York, gave his son $40,000 to buy a new car, but the judge, McMahon, questioned the veracity of the claim.

It was not the only time McMahon expressed doubts about Hussain’s honesty.

“By the end of the trial, the jury knew that Hussain had lied about his finances to at least two courts (the Northern District of New York and the Northern District Bankruptcy Court), lied to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, lied to the Town of Colonie and its school district about his residence, lied to potential customers of his motel, and lied to the IRS about his income at tax time,” wrote McMahon.

In late 2001, Hussain was arrested on federal fraud charges of helping immigrants illegally secure driver’s licenses. Hussain, who had been working as a translator for the Department of Motor Vehicles, faced a possible prison term and deportation to Pakistan. He pleaded guilty and, as part of his agreement with the government, cooperated with the FBI by going undercover to secure evidence against several former associates in the scheme, including his mistress.

Hussain excelled in this new role — a fact grudgingly accepted even by his detractors.

“Both his physical and emotional presence seemed impervious to chastisement, to exposure, to anything — nothing seemed to throw his casual defiance off course,” said Karen Greenberg, the director of Fordham’s Center on National Security, who has observed Hussain in court.

The bureau also has sent Hussain to London and Pakistan, where he infiltrated a terrorist training camp, according to court testimony.

In the summer of 2003, Hussain first adopted the persona of the suave, moneyed terrorist at the direction of the FBI. The object of the sting was Yassin Aref, an Iraqi Kurd and the spiritual leader of an Albany mosque.

Aref was convicted of participating in a plot to launder funds from the sale of a shoulder-fired missile. Aref’s attorneys said he simply saw what he thought was a loan between Hussain and the owner of a struggling pizza parlor who was also convicted. Aref and the owner of the pizza parlor were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The informant at work

On another assignment for the FBI, Hussain went to Newburgh’s Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque 12 times before he met James Cromitie, a convert to Islam and a stocker at a Wal-Mart, in June 2008.

In a poor community, Hussain struck an odd figure, driving Hummers and BMWs and wearing designer clothes.

Salahuddin Muhammad, imam of the mosque, said in an interview that some people suspected that Hussain was an FBI informant. He was too eager to engage people in conversation about jihad, Muhammad said.

Cromitie, who attended the mosque infrequently, either didn’t hear of the suspicions of others or didn’t care.

Hussain later told the FBI that Cromitie said: “Look, brother, I might have done a lot of sin, but to die like a shaded (martyr), I will go to paradise . . . I want to do something to America.”

By July, Hussain had told Cromitie he was part of a Pakistani terrorist group. Cromitie, who had multiple drug convictions but no history of violence, said he wanted to join, according to the FBI’s debriefing of the informant.

During a November 2008 trip to Philadelphia with Hussain, which coincided with the terrorist attacks on several locations in Mumbai, India, Cromitie made some of his most incendiary statements.

Cromitie hadn’t heard of the attacks, but Hussain pointed out that one of the targets in Mumbai was a Jewish center, according to transcripts of conversations that were secretly recorded and later played in court.

“I’d like to get a synagogue,” Cromitie said.

The judge later noted in a finding of fact that “whenever Hussain asked Cromitie to act on those sentiments — make a plan, pick a target, find recruits, introduce the [confidential informant] to like-minded brothers, procure guns and conduct surveillance — Cromitie did none of the above.”

McMahon said that at this point Hussain began to add “more worldly inducements” to the “offer of paradise” beginning with a BMW “but only after Cromitie had completed a mission.”

Closing the net

Hussain left for Pakistan on Dec. 18, 2008, and didn’t return to the United States for two months. While he was away, the FBI briefed officials at Stewart International Airport in New York on the investigation but assured them that “Cromitie was unlikely to commit an act without the support of the FBI source.”

Indeed, Cromitie said, “I just dropped everything,” according to the transcript of the conversation. But when Hussain returned, Cromitie’s enthusiasm was rekindled.

McMahon later wrote that “the court believes and specifically finds that it was about this time when Hussain offered Cromitie as much as a quarter million dollars to participate in a mission.”

Such an offer was not authorized by the FBI, the prosecutor told the court. Hussain denied making it, saying the reference to a specific amount of money was not intended to be literal. McMahon, in her sentencing, said she did not believe him.

After a surveillance drive around Stewart Air National Guard Base on Feb. 24, 2009, Cromitie cut off communication with Hussain for six weeks, he later testified. Cromitie pretended to have left town, although he was still in Newburgh.

On April 5, Cromitie called Hussain. “I have to try to make some money, brother,” Cromitie said.

“I told you. I can make you $250,000, but you don’t want it, brother. What can I tell you,” Hussain said.

Cromitie soon was back in.

On May 20, 2009, Hussain, Cromitie and three associates drove south from Newburgh carrying three duffel bags, each stuffed with nearly 40 pounds of explosives and 500 steel ball bearings to maximize casualties at a synagogue and a Jewish community center in the Bronx. After bombing them, the men planned to double back north to Stewart Air National Guard base near Newburgh to launch a stinger missile at parked military planes.

But the FBI had provided the bombs and the missile and had rendered them harmless.

All four Newburgh men were later convicted on terrorism charges in a jury trial and sentenced to 25 years in prison. They have appealed.

On the final drive to the Bronx, Hussain tried to get Cromitie to prime the bombs by following his instructions on which wires to connect, Hussain testified. But Cromitie and the others couldn’t figure it out, and Hussain had to stop the car and do it himself.

When they got to the Bronx, Hussain had to explain how to operate a car key fob so Cromitie could open the first of the pre-parked cars and plant the bomb.

Afterward, Hussain asked him if he had turned the bomb on. “I forgot,” Cromitie replied.

Hussain told him not to worry, it could still be detonated.

Cromitie then set off to plant the other two bombs, but he couldn’t open the trunk of the next car. Hussain told Cromitie by walkie-talkie to just put them in the back seat.

Hussain then signaled for the FBI to move in.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


25-year term sought for Tarek Mehanna

April 11, 2012

Boston.com on April 11, 2012 released the following:

“By Milton J. Valencia

They called him an angry, callous man, obsessed with violence and killing Americans.

Saying he led a double life as a would-be terrorist, federal prosecutors recommended Tuesday that convicted Al Qaeda supporter Tarek Mehanna be sentenced to 25 years in prison, a term they said would protect the public and punish him for committing “among the most serious crimes a person can commit.’’

The prison term, prosecutors said, should be followed by a term of supervised probation for as long as Mehanna remains in the United States.

“To his family and community, he was a dutiful and scholarly young man, but to his close friends and online contacts, he was a proponent of violence as a means of achieving his political goals,’’ the prosecutors said, adding, “The nature of Mehanna’s crimes highlights his dangerousness and the resulting need to separate him from society.’’

The prosecutors’ recommendation differs starkly from the life term Mehanna faced under federal sentencing guidelines, as calculated by US probation officials.

And yet the recommendation nearly quadruples the sentence of 6 1/2 that Mehanna’s lawyers had asked for, a term they said better reflects Mehanna’s conviction and the scope of his crimes.

US District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr., who presided over Mehanna’s nine-week trial, is to hand down a sentence Thursday during a hearing in which Mehanna is expected to address the judge. On Monday, Mehanna wrote O’Toole asking him to consider his work as a teacher and a pharmacist to determine who he truly is.

The 29-year-old is a US citizen from Sudbury who was living with his parents and who planned to work at a medical center in Saudi Arabia before his arrest in 2008 and his indictment a year later on terrorism charges.

He was found guilty in December of charges of conspiring to kill in a foreign country and to support terrorists and of lying to investigators in a terrorism investigation.

Prosecutors said Mehanna traveled to Yemen in 2004 seeking terrorism training so that he could carry out jihad, or holy war, against US soldiers in Iraq. He failed to find a camp but returned with a determination to support Al Qaeda by promoting the group’s ideology on the Internet. He translated texts and distributed videos glorifying violence including suicide bombings against US soldiers.

Mehanna has maintained through lawyers, his family members, and supporters – who wrote about 100 pages of letters to O’Toole asking for mercy – that he was a budding scholar who embraced a strict interpretation of his religion, but who never worked with Al Qaeda. His views were protected under the First Amendment, he said.

He has sought to draw a line between his opposition to the US foreign policy and forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, by violence if necessary, and the type of indiscriminate killings carried out by Al Qaeda terrorists.

But prosecutors argued in court filings Tuesday that Mehanna is no different than Al Qaeda members who carry out suicide bombings, saying he sought training in Yemen. When he failed to find a camp, he distributed videos promoting suicide bombings and even beheadings, saying he hoped they would cause others to “donate blood’’ to the opposition of US forces.

The prosecutors pointed to congressional reports stating that America’s war on terrorism has moved to the Internet, where Al Qaeda has worked to spread its message and recruit members. Mehanna supported that cause, the prosecutors said.

What is worse, the prosecutors said, is that Mehanna has refused to admit guilt and has instead sought to make himself out to be a martyr.

“He has consistently attempted to characterize himself as a victim of government excess and a symbol of First Amendment rights,’’ prosecutors said. “He is a defiant individual who now appears eager to cultivate a new identity as a symbol of defiance.’’”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


US prosecutors seeking life sentence for former Soviet arms dealer Viktor Bout

April 5, 2012

The Washington Post on April 5, 2012 released the following:

“By Associated Press

NEW YORK — A Russian man who became known as the “Merchant of Death” for his exploits in arms sales markets worldwide is set to learn Thursday how long he’ll be in U.S. prison after his defense lawyers asked a judge to set him free and prosecutors asked that he never get out.

Viktor Bout, 45, faces a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison and possibly life during sentencing for his conviction on terrorism charges. His lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin to throw out his conviction, saying he’s a political prisoner who stepped into a vindictive U.S. government sting operation.

Federal prosecutors say Bout should spend life in prison because he agreed “without hesitation and with frightening speed” to ship “a breathtaking arsenal of weapons,” including hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and sniper rifles along with 10 million rounds of ammunition to men he believed represented a foreign terrorist organization willing to kill Americans in Colombia.

They say his weapons fueled armed conflicts in some of the world’s most treacherous hot spots, including Rwanda, Angola and the Congo and that he was looking for new arms deals in places like Libya and Tanzania when he was arrested.

Lawyers for Bout, who was the inspiration for an arms dealer character played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film “Lord of War,” say their client became a political prisoner after Drug Enforcement Administration agents coaxed him from his Russian home to Thailand, where he was arrested in March 2008. They say the charges stemmed from a made-up scenario to deliver weapons to rebels in South America to shoot down American helicopter pilots.

“The relentless pursuit of Viktor Bout and the abominable design to create a criminal case against him that brings him before this court for sentencing is the product of malice and object of private politics stemming from the then White House,” defense attorney Albert Dayan wrote in a letter to Scheindlin, a judge who recently ordered Bout moved from solitary confinement into the general prison population.

Dayan said the prosecution resulted from “outrageous, inexcusable government conduct” to get his client even after Bout rebuffed the first approach by U.S. operatives by saying the Russian government had ordered him to withdraw from any illegal arms deals.

Dayan said his client faked his way through negotiations for a $15 million to $20 million arms deal so he could sell two shoddy cargo planes for $5 million to U.S. government operatives. He said the operatives followed a well scripted dialogue of anti-Americanism that would whip American jurors into “a blind rage … and ultimately to conviction.”

Dayan said Bout’s conviction culminated a plan put in motion by the U.S. to avenge the embarrassing revelation that U.S. military contractors had arranged in late 2003 with Bout-owned or Bout-controlled companies to deliver tents, food and other supplies for U.S. firms working for the U.S. military in Iraq.

The deliveries occurred despite United Nations sanctions imposed against Bout since 2001 because of his reputation as a notorious illegal arms dealer, Dayan said.

The lawyer noted that the U.S. Treasury Department imposed its own ban on dealings with Bout in July 2004, citing in part the “unproven allegation” that Bout made $50 million in profits from arms transfers to the Taliban when Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida were based in Afghanistan.

Federal prosecutors said the government initiated its investigation in 2007 because Bout “constituted a threat to the United States and to the international community based on his reported history of arming some of the world’s most violent and destabilizing dictators and regimes.”

“Although Bout has often described himself as nothing more than a businessman, he was a businessman of the most dangerous order,” prosecutors said in their memo. “Transnational criminals like Bout who are ready, willing and able to arm terrorists transform their customers from intolerant ideologues into lethal criminals who pose the gravest risk to civilized societies.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Accused Member of Foreign Terrorist Organization Extradited to United States on Hostage Taking Charges

March 12, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on March 12, 2012 released the following:

“WASHINGTON— Alexander Beltran Herrera, 35, aka Jhon Alexander Beltrain Herrera, aka Rodrigo Pirinolo, an accused member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has been extradited from Colombia to face hostage taking and terrorism charges in the United States.

The extradition was announced by Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for national security; Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia; and Dena Choucair, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami Division.

Beltran Herrera was extradited from Colombia to the United States over the weekend to face charges in an indictment returned in the District of Columbia on February 22, 2011. The indictment, which names as defendants 18 members of the FARC, charges Herrera specifically with one count of conspiracy to commit hostage taking; three counts of hostage taking; one count of using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence; one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists; and one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Beltran Herrera is scheduled to be arraigned today at 11:15 a.m. before Judge Royce C. Lamberth in federal court in the District of Columbia. If convicted of all the charges against him, he faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison.

According to the indictment, the FARC is an armed, violent organization in Colombia, which, since its inception in 1964, has engaged in an armed conflict to overthrow the Republic of Colombia, South America’s longest-standing democracy. The FARC has consistently used hostage taking as a primary technique in extorting demands from the Republic of Colombia. Hostage taking has been endorsed and commanded by FARC senior leadership. The FARC has characterized American citizens as “military targets” and has engaged in violent acts against Americans in Colombia, including murders and hostage taking. The FARC was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Secretary of State in 1997 and remains so designated.

The indictment alleges that Beltran Herrera was a member of the 27th Front in the FARC’s Southern Block. Beltran Herrera was allegedly involved in the hostage taking of three U.S. citizens, Marc D. Gosalves, Thomas R. Howes, and Keith Stansell. These three individuals, along with Thomas Janis, a U.S. citizen, and Sergeant Luis Alcides Cruz, a Colombian citizen, were seized on February 13, 2003 by the FARC after their single engine aircraft made a crash landing near Florencia, Colombia. Janis and Cruz were murdered at the crash site by members of the FARC.

According to the indictment, Gonsalves, Howes, and Stansell were held by the FARC at gunpoint and were advised by FARC leadership that they would be used as hostages to increase international pressure on the government of the Republic of Colombia to agree to the FARC’s demands.

The FARC at various times marched the hostages from one site to another, placing them in the actual custody of various FARC fronts. At the conclusion of one 40-day march, in or about November 2004, the hostages were delivered to members of the FARC’s 27th Front, commanded by Daniel Tamayo Sanchez, who was responsible for the hostages for nearly two years, after which they were delivered to the FARC’s 1st Front. During part of this two-year period with the 27th Front, Beltran Herrera was responsible for moving the hostages and keeping them imprisoned.

Throughout the captivity of these three hostages, FARC jailors and guards, including Beltran Herrera, used choke harnesses, chains, padlocks, and wires to restrain the hostages, and used force and threats to continue their detention and prevent their escape. The indictment also accuses Beltran Herrera of using and carrying a military-type machine gun during the hostage taking and providing material support and resources to aid in the hostage taking and to aid the FARC.

“Today’s extradition underscores our resolve to hold accountable all those responsible for this crime and we will not rest until every one of them is brought to justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.

“This extradition is another step toward justice on behalf of Americans taken hostage and held in chains by a Colombian terrorist organization,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “We will not hesitate to bring to justice anyone who targets Americans around the world with violence to advance their political agendas.”

“This extradition further disrupts and dismantles the FARC, a foreign terrorist organization that has engaged in violent acts against American and Colombian citizens,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Choucair. “The outstanding, long-term cooperation between the Colombian National Police and U.S. law enforcement has struck another blow to international terrorism.”

This investigation is being led by the FBI’s Miami Field Division. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Asuncion and Fernando Campoamar-Sanchez from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorney David Cora from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Substantial assistance in the case was provided by the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Department’s Judicial Attachés in Colombia, and the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Colombia. The Directorate of Intelligence (DIPOL) and the Anti-Kidnapping Unit (GAULA) of the Colombian National Police also provided substantial assistance.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains mere allegations and that defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


FBI Says Hysen Sherif, Accused Terrorist Plotter, Wanted To Kill Witnesses

January 25, 2012

Huffington Post on January 24, 2012 released the following:

“Hysen Sherif, Accused Terrorist Plotter, Wanted To Kill Witnesses: FBI

By MICHAEL BIESECKER

RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina man sentenced to prison recently as part of a homegrown terrorist ring has been accused in a federal court document of plotting to kill witnesses who testified against him at trial.

An affidavit unsealed in federal court Monday accuses Hysen Sherifi of plotting against the witnesses from his jail cell. Authorities say an FBI informant posing as a hit man met with Sherifi’s brother and a female friend and accepted $5,000 and a photo of an intended victim.

FBI agents have arrested the brother, Shkumbin Sherifi, and Nevine Aly Elshiekh, a school teacher. Now in federal custody at the New Hanover County Jail, each is charged with a felony count of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.

Hysen Sherifi, 27, was sentenced to 45 years in prison earlier this month in what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to attack the Marine base at Quantico, Va., and targets abroad. Five others, including construction contractor Daniel Patrick Boyd, have been sentenced to federal prison terms for terrorism charges related to raising money, stockpiling weapons and training in preparation for jihadist attacks.

No charges have been filed at this time against Hysen Sherifi related to the new plot, according to a search of a federal court database.

Shkumbin Sherifi and Elshiekh await a scheduled first appearance Friday in federal court in Wilmington. The two have applied for court appointed lawyers, who have not yet been assigned.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh has released no information about those arrested.

In a 10-page affidavit filed under seal Friday, FBI Special Agent James Langtry writes that he developed a source as a confidential informant inside the New Hanover County Jail near Wilmington, where Hysen Sherifi was sent after a jury convicted him in October.

The informant soon befriended Sherifi, who requested help in hiring someone to kill three people who had testified against him at his trial, according to the affidavit. Sherifi specified that he wanted the witnesses beheaded and that he would be provided photos of the severed heads as confirmation of the deaths, according to the document.

FBI agents said in the document that they arranged for a second informant to pose as a hit man and monitored Sherifi during a series of jailhouse visits with Elshiekh.

Following a Dec. 21 visit at the jail, Elshiekh left a voicemail on the fake hit man’s cell phone, identifying herself as “Hysen Sherifi’s friend,” according to the affidavit. It added that the FBI observed and recorded subsequent meetings between Elshiekh and the fake hit man, during which she provided names, addresses and photos of those targeted and $750 in cash toward the first murder.

Agents also observed Elshiekh meeting with Shkumbin Sherifi, who met with the FBI’s fake hitman on Jan. 8, the court document said. According to the affidavit, the brother traveled from Raleigh to Wilmington to provide the hit man another $4,250 in cash.

The affidavit provides no information about the nature of the relationship between Hysen Sherifi and Elshiekh, but a woman with that same name was quoted in media reports from last year’s terrorism trial in New Bern. The names of the witnesses allegedly targeted were redacted from the affidavit.

Nevine Elshiekh is listed as a special education teacher on the website for Sterling Montessori Academy, a charter school in Mooresville. Bill Zajic, the school’s executive director, did not return a message from the Associated Press on Tuesday.

No one answered the phone at Elshiekh’s Raleigh home Tuesday.

The Sherifi brothers and other family members emigrated from Kosovo following the wars that ravaged the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. A call to the Sherifi family home in Raleigh on Tuesday was not returned.

Hysen Sherifi and others arrested in the terrorism conspiracy were members of the Islamic Association of Raleigh, the largest Muslim congregation in the Triangle. Several members of the mosque also routinely made the 4-hour round trip for the trial in New Bern to support the accused, who they described as innocent men being railroaded by overzealous federal authorities.

Messages to the media contact listed for the mosque were not returned.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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