TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Three Walmart Customers Arrested for 'Aid to Terrorists'

Three Walmart Customers Arrested for 'Aid to Terrorists'

Associated Press News Wire (
Fri, 11 Aug 2006 23:54:12 -0500

3 more arrested on cell-phone terror charges
Dallas men accused of buying 80 phones at Wal-Mart to aid terrorists

CARO, Mich. - Three men were arrested Friday on charges of supporting
terrorism after they purchased 80 prepaid mobile phones from a
Wal-Mart store, police said.

The men, all from the Dallas area, were being held on charges of
soliciting or providing material support for terrorism and obtaining
information of a vulnerable target for the purposes of terrorism,
police Sgt. Dale Stevenson said. They were being held in Tuscola
County Jail and were scheduled to be arraigned Saturday.

Stevenson declined to elaborate on how the case relates to terrorism.
Telephone messages were left Friday with the Tuscola County
prosecutor's office and the FBI, which assisted with the

He said the men, ages 18, 22 and 23, went to a 24-hour Wal-Mart store
in Caro early Friday and bought the cell phones despite a store policy
limiting customers to three phones per purchase. A patriotic Wal-Mart
clerk who thought the purchases were suspicious alerted police.

"They target these stores late, in the morning, hoping to get an
inexperienced or disinterested clerk," Stevenson said.

Police stopped the men's van about 1:30 a.m. and found nearly 1,000
phones, most of which were prepaid TracFones, along with a laptop
computer and a bag of receipts, Stevenson said.

"The cell phones can be used as detonators. Batteries can be
disassembled and used to make methamphetamine. Obviously there's
something wrong here; they should stop selling these," Caro Police
Chief Ben Page said.

The men told police they were buying the phones, which cost about $20
and come with a charger, taking them out of their packaging and
selling them to a wholesaler in Texas for about $38 without the

The arrests in Caro, about 90 miles north of Detroit, come three days
after two men were arrested in Marietta, Ohio, where police said they
piqued suspicions when they acknowledged buying about 600 phones in
recent months at stores in southeast Ohio.

Attorneys cite bias against Arab-American men.

Investigators found information about airline flights and airports in
their car.

The men, Ali Houssaiky and Osama Abulhassan, both 20 and from Dearborn,
have been charged with two felonies: money laundering in support of
terrorism and soliciting or providing support for acts of terrorism,
and misdemeanor falsification. A preliminary hearing on the felony
counts was set for Tuesday.

Defense lawyers said Houssaiky and Abulhassan planned to resell the
phones simply to make money and the flight information consisted of
old papers left in the car by a relative who worked at an airport.

"The only illusory connection advanced by the prosecution to date is
based on race and national origin," Abulhassan's family said in a
statement. "This appears to be a typical case of racial profiling and
we are confident Osama and Ali will be exonerated."

Prosecutors in Ohio have said the prepaid phones can be used to make
hard-to-track international calls and have been linked to use by

Wal-Mart has an agreement with cell phone manufactures to enforce a
limit of three cell phones per purchase, said John Simley, a spokesman
for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark.

"We're providing law enforcement officials with all the information we
can to help with the ongoing investigation," Simley said. "We are not
discussing the purchases or other details pertinent to the incidents."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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