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They Keep Trying


Diamond Member
Nov 22, 2003
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Student truck driver faces deportation

01:00 AM EST on Saturday, December 9, 2006

By Steve Peoples

Projo.com Staff Writer

Federal terrorism officials and Rhode Island authorities converged this week to arrest an Indian citizen enrolled in a Smithfield tractor-trailer training school who was trying to obtain a commercial driverÂ’s license and permit to haul hazardous materials.

The man, Mohammed Yusef Mullawala, of Jamaica, N.Y., is being held in federal custody for overstaying his student visa. State police Maj. Steven OÂ’Donnell said that after two days of truck-driving classes, MullawalaÂ’s behavior was suspicious enough to prompt school officials to contact the Department of Homeland Security late last month.

“His behavior was consistent with terrorist-type activity,” O’Donnell said. “He showed no interest in learning the fine art of driving a tractor-trailer. He had no interest in learning how to back up.”

Using protocol established after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, officials from Nationwide Tractor Trailer Driving School, of 125 Washington Highway in Smithfield, contacted the federal Highway Information Sharing and Analysis Center with concerns about Mullawala. The center relayed the concerns to the Department of Homeland Security, which then contacted the Rhode Island State Police, the FBIÂ’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Authorities soon discovered that Mullawala was in the United States illegally , according to the state police. They also learned that he had driverÂ’s licenses in three states, including Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.

OÂ’Donnell said that Mullawala falsified documents when applying for a driverÂ’s license at the Registry of Motor Vehicles by saying he was a Rhode Island resident. State authorities intend to charge him with identity theft for allegedly lying on the forms, OÂ’Donnell said.

“If it was just three licenses, that wouldn’t raise too many red flags. But all the other stuff really raised some eyebrows,” O’Donnell said. “Maybe he’s not a terrorist. But there’s every indication that he’s hiding something.”

Mullawala told authorities that he was commuting to the Smithfield school from New York. He indicated that he was in a hurry to obtain a commercial driverÂ’s license and a permit to haul hazardous cargo. And Mullawala indicated to the truck driving school that he wasnÂ’t interested in learning how to back up a tractor-trailer, according to OÂ’Donnell.

“There may be some legitimate reason he doesn’t want to learn to back up or drive [the truck] properly…He gave an explanation,” O’Donnell said, declining to detail the explanation.

The state police lured Mullawala to state police headquarters on Tuesday “on an unrelated matter that we created for him,” O’Donnell said. “He was not aware he was coming here to be arrested.”

He has since been turned over to immigration officials and is being held in federal custody pending the results of an immigration hearing in Boston. Mullawala faces deportation.

“There’s no nexus to terrorism we can prove,” O’Donnell said. “Sometimes there’s no way of telling and we don’t want to wait to find out.”

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