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5 Plead Innocent in Tenn. ID Case

March 7, 2002

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Five Middle Eastern men pleaded innocent Wednesday to federal charges that they tried to illegally get Tennessee driver’s licenses.

The defendants were arrested Feb. 5 along with Katherine Smith, 49, a Tennessee driver’s license examiner who died five days later in a car fire authorities say was intentionally set.

A medical examiner’s report on the cause of her death is pending, and authorities are still investigating.

Kahled Odtllah, 31, Sakher Hammad, 24, Mostafa Said Abou-Shahin, 25, Abdelmuhsen Mahmid Hammad, 31, and Mohammed Fares, 19, are charged with conspiring to illegally produce identification documents. They face up to five years in prison.

Defense lawyers have said the men traveled to Memphis from New York because they heard it was easy to get driver’s licenses in Tennessee, where Social Security numbers are not required.

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