- Nov 22, 2003
- Reaction score
Investigators: Pair with passenger info, phones linked to terror
MARIETTA, Ohio - Investigators in southeast Ohio said they were working to unravel how two Michigan men charged with supporting terrorism came to have airplane passenger lists and airport security information.
Osama Sabhi Abulhassan, 20, and Ali Houssaiky, 20, both of the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, were being held at the Washington County jail on $200,000 bond each, which could be raised at a Thursday afternoon court hearing. Each was charged Wednesday with money laundering in support of terrorism.
Deputies stopped the two on a traffic violation Tuesday and found the flight documents along with $11,000 cash and 12 phones in their car, Sheriff Larry Mincks said.
It wasn't clear what significance the airline information might have. Assistant County Prosecutor Susan Vessels declined to comment on whether the manifests were for upcoming flights or those that already had flown. She also would not give the origin or destination of the flight or flights.
FBI spokesman Mike Brooks in Cincinnati said federal agents were in contact with Washington County authorities. He said at this point he knew of no connection between the case and the alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound planes that British authorities say they have thwarted.
Abulhassan and Houssaiky admitted buying about 600 phones in recent months at stores in southeast Ohio, said sheriff's Maj. John Winstanley. They sold the phones to someone in Dearborn, Winstanley said.
Vessels declined to say how the phones, cash or flight information involved terrorism.
Investigators going through the car after the pair were pulled over in Marietta also found a map that showed locations of Wal-Mart stores from Ohio through Kentucky, Tennessee and into North and South Carolina, Vessels said.
"We got them at the beginning of their trip," she said.
Vessels did not say why the pair headed to southeast Ohio from Dearborn.
A message seeking comment was left Wednesday evening with Ray Smith, a public defender who represents Abulhassan. Houssaiky did not yet have an attorney, Vessels said.
Houssaiky's family members said he and Abulhassan work in the cell phone trade and were on a business trip, according to Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dearborn, who said he met with Houssaiky's relatives Wednesday.
"I hope this is a case where the government is not overreacting, overreaching and over-reading," Hamad said. "This is sensitive and serious. Nobody should rush to judgment."
At their brief court appearance Wednesday, the defendants did not address the terror charges. Abulhassan said he is a junior at the University of Michigan and Houssaiky said he is a student at Wayne State University.
The fourth-degree felony charges allege the two laundered between $5,000 and $25,000, Vessels said. A conviction carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The men were charged Tuesday with obstructing official business. Winstanley said they initially lied about why they bought the phones.
Those charges were dropped Wednesday when the money laundering charges were filed.
Marietta, with about 14,000 people, is about 90 miles southeast of Columbus and 12 miles northeast of Parkersburg, W.Va.