Two men were charged Wednesday with money laundering in support of terrorism after authorities said they found airplane passenger lists and information on airport security checkpoints in their car.
Deputies stopped Osama Sabhi Abulhassan, 20, and Ali Houssaiky, 20, both of Dearborn, Mich., on a traffic violation Tuesday. They found the flight documents along with $11,000 cash and 12 phones in the car, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.
Prosecutor Susan Vessels declined to say how the phones, cash or flight information involved terrorism.
Abulhassan and Houssaiky admitted buying about 600 phones in recent months at stores in southeast Ohio, said sheriff’s Maj. John Winstanley. The men said they sold the phones to someone in Dearborn, a Detroit suburb.
Right now, it appears that this was a local interdiction; it looks like the local officials were only bringing in the FBI after the fact. I’ll update this post as additional information comes along.
Update 1 (8/10): More from the Marietta (OH) Times, where the arrests took place, suggesting that the phones purchased are “suspected of being shipped overseas and used to detonate roadside bombs.”
Update 2 (8/10): ABC News looked into questionable sales of disposable cell phones in January. Here’s a similar story in another town in Ohio in March. Here’s a blog post with a similar story in Kansas in late July. And here’s a May 2006 post on a message board from a store clerk in Arkansas expressing concern about Tracphone purchases:
Ok I work retail part-time a couple of nights a week and we get these people come in and they all want the Tracphone Nokia 1100 pre-paid cell phones!!! Every time these weird customerâ€™s ask for them these people end up buying everyone we have in stock (like eighteen to thirty of them at once). My boss told me we get twenty phone calls a day asking for these phones. So tonight I was helping this twenty something year old guy and he asked if we had some and I said â€œyea weâ€™ve got 12 of themâ€ we he bought them all and I asked what he does with them and he told me that some guy in California is buying every Nokia 1100 cell phone because they are untraceable when you make calls on them???? These phones sell for $19.99 and the guy in Cali pays double for these phones. All I have to say is WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!