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False 9-11 Claimant Won’t Be Jailed

March 12, 2002

LONDON (AP) _ A judge on Tuesday declined to jail a woman who obtained a free flight to New York by falsely claiming her brother was a firefighter missing after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Olabisi Iyabo Buraimoh, 54, of London, who had pleaded guilty to wasting police time, was given a conditional discharge, meaning she must live under various legal restrictions for the next two years. She had been free on bail since her arrest.

A district judge at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court also ordered her to repay a government agency $750 for her trip and $150 in court costs.

``There is no doubt this was a most serious offense,″ Justice Geoffrey Wicks told Buraimoh, who holds joint British and Nigerian citizenship.

But he said Buraimoh had been motivated by ``a genuine belief that the inability you had to contact your brother was possibly caused by his having been involved in the events in New York last September.

``I am satisfied also that ... you allowed a combination of great emotional anxiety to become so inflated in your mind that ... you then got swept along by telling lies and the whole thing became far bigger than perhaps you expected or intended,″ he said.

Wicks said although the offense ``seemed objectively to justify a sentence of imprisonment, there is no way in which it would be proper for me to impose such a sentence.″

Prosecutors said Buraimoh called Scotland Yard’s casualty bureau on Sept. 13 and reported that her brother was a firefighter missing in New York City.

Police arranged with the Foreign Office for a flight to New York for Buraimoh and accommodation there at public expense.

The day after she arrived, police located her brother Aladi Ayrio in a hospital being treated for prostate cancer.

When questioned, Buraimoh changed her story, saying her brother was a former firefighter, but now was a teacher who had been due to take a class to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, prosecutors said.

On Buraimoh’s return to Britain, police learned her brother had never been a firefighter. When arrested on Nov. 27, she denied she had ever claimed her brother was a firefighter.

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