FBI Investigating Activities Of Terrorists
HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (AP) _ A man described as a pro-Iranian terrorist pleaded innocent Wednesday to stealing secret equipment from a U.S. defense contractor where he had worked.
During a raid of a New Paltz apartment Aug. 27, authorities found a briefcase belonging to Mohammed Said Charafeddine and containing secret equipment from Betatronix Inc. of Hauppauge, said Rick Lazio, Suffolk County executive assistant district attorney.
Charafeddine, 23, a Lebanese, was being held without bail after pleading innocent last week to charges of possession of stolen property and second- degree forgery. His attorney denied that he was part of any terrorist group.
He was charged Tuesday with fourth-degree grand larceny for allegedly stealing the sensitive military parts from Betatronix, where he worked until recently, officials said.
Charafeddine pleaded innocent Wednesday to the new charge in an arraignment before District Court Judge Francis Caldira, who set bail at $25,000 and remanded him to county jail in Riverhead.
According to prosecutors, the briefcase contained a device that could be used as a bomb detonator; a device used to regulate the fire control system on a Bradley tank; and components used in the navigation system of the F-111 fighter jet, the radar jamming system of the F-4 and other missile systems components.
Investigators confirmed that the FBI had seized evidence that linked Charafeddine, with the Hezbollah terrorist group, although FBI spokesman Joe Valiquette declined to comment.
The FBI seized the briefcase, said state police senior investigator George Rebhan, who participated in the raid.
Hezbollah is believed to be a Shiite Moslem umbrella group for pro-Iranian extremist factions that have claimed responsibility for kidnapping most of the 25 foreigners now missing after being kidnapped in Lebanon in the past two years.
Investigators also found a Hezbollah in-house newspaper in the apartment, and thousands of dollars of merchandise purchased with stolen credit cards, said Rebhan.
Arrested at the apartment were Yasser Ahmad Chamas, 22, his 20-year-old brother Ammar, both of Lebanon, and two Indian women - Traci Heron, 20, the wife of Yasser Chamas, and Glenda M. Taylor, 21, both of Salamanca, Rebhan said.
Information gained at the scene led authorities to Charafeddine at a friend’s home in New York City, authorities said.
Steven Fondulis, Charafeddine’s attorney, said his client was put in protective custody because he had received threats from other inmates. He did not elaborate.
″He’s telling me emphatically he’s not a terrorist, he’s not a munitions expert, he’s not a member of the Hezbollah and he was never in the militia,″ Fondulis said. ″He believes all that is happening is because he is Lebanese.″
John Maher, vice president of Betatronix, said in a statement Wednesday that the company had no comment.
Authorities said Charafeddine apparently arrived in the country under false pretenses after lying about his past.
Although he claimed to be a student, he only enrolled in classes for a short time at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where police learned early this year that students’ credit cards were being stolen from a table where mail was distributed, officials said.
The investigation eventually centered in New Paltz, where merchants identified the suspects and provided information that led to Thursday’s raid, Rebhan said.
Rebhan said stolen credit cards and $15,000 worth of stolen televisions, videocassette recorders, stereos and other electronic equipment were found in the apartment.
Chamas was charged with possession of stolen property and second-degree forgery and held in Suffolk County on $35,000 bail.
Ms. Heron was charged with criminal possession of stolen property and was held on $2,500 bail at the Ulster County jail.
Ms. Taylor and Ammar Chamas were charged with possession of stolen property, a misdemeanor, and were released on appearance tickets.