Illegal immigrant pleads guilty to helping hijacker obtain false Virginia ID card
Tuesday, November 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ An Indonesian man named in FBI documents as a contact for airline hijacker Mohammed Atta is being charged with helping obtain false identification for another man listed in the same documents as a contact for Osama bin Laden.
Agus Budiman appeared Monday before a U.S. magistrate in this Washington suburb on a criminal complaint charging him with helping Mohammad Bin Nasser Belfas obtain a Virginia driver's license.
Both Budiman and Belfas are among 370 names included on an FBI list of people sought for questioning in the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The list was released last month by Finnish banking authorities.
Budiman is identified on the list as a U.S. contact for Atta, the presumed ringleader of the 19 hijackers. Belfas is identified as a contact for bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the attacks. No charges against Belfas have been made public, and his whereabouts could not be learned.
According to the criminal complaint filed Monday, Budiman and Belfas came to the United States from Hamburg, Germany, in October 2000. Attorney General John Ashcroft has said that Atta and two other hijackers were part of a terrorist cell that operated in Hamburg and the United States.
The complaint alleges Budiman helped Belfas obtain a Virginia ID card by certifying on Nov. 4, 2000, that he and Belfas both lived at an Arlington, Va., address. Neither of the men actually lived there, the complaint said, but Belfas later used the ID card to obtain a driver's license.
Neither man has been charged with any crimes related to terrorism or the hijackings.
Budiman appeared in the same federal courthouse Monday where prosecutors obtained guilty pleas from two men arrested initially in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks.
Khalid al-Draibi, 32, who was arrested Sept. 11 while driving with a flat tire near Washington Dulles International Airport, pleaded guilty to a visa fraud charge after prosecutors said he wasn't involved in the hijackings.
The other man, Victor Lopez-Flores, an illegal alien from El Salvador, pleaded guilty to helping one of the Sept. 11 hijackers fraudulently obtain a Virginia identification card and to re-entering the United States illegally after being deported.
Al-Draibi was arrested about 13 hours after the attacks when he aroused suspicion by driving away from Dulles airport in a car with a flat tire.
After he was stopped, police found driver's licenses from eight states and flight manuals for small aircraft, prosecutors said.
But al-Draibi passed two lie detector tests that showed he wasn't involved in the attacks, his attorney, Drewery Hutcheson Jr., said.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III asked prosecutors Monday if the government was satisfied al-Draibi had nothing to do with Sept. 11. ``That's correct,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney John Morton answered.
Al-Draibi faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine when he is sentenced Jan. 18 on the visa fraud charge.
In his guilty plea, Lopez-Flores admitted he falsely certified on Aug. 2 that Ahmed Alghamdi lived at his Alexandria, Va., address.
Alghamdi, who was aboard one of the hijacked airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center, used the residency certification to obtain an ID card from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles a month before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Prosecutors said Alghamdi paid Lopez-Flores $100 for his help. Lopez-Flores, who was deported in 1993 after a criminal conviction, acknowledged that he helped at least 20 people obtain false Virginia IDs since last May.
Lopez-Flores was the second person to plead guilty in northern Virginia to charges arising from the investigation into false ID cards obtained by the hijackers.