21 December 2004 – LAWFUEL – First with law news – A Tanzanian national who called the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with a false alert about an alleged al Qaeda terrorist attack against a shopping mall in West Los Angeles pleaded guilty yesterday to federal charges.
Zameer Mohamed, 23, who most recently lived in Canada, surprised every one in the courtroom when he decided to plead guilty in the middle of a previously scheduled pre-trial hearing. He pleaded guilty to one count of using a telephone to convey false information about an explosive attack in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(e).
Mohammed made the call that led to his conviction on April 23, 2004 when he telephoned DHS and said that a Los Angeles-area mall in the vicinity of UCLA and “the federal building” would be attacked by terrorists on April 29th. He said he had connections to an al Qaeda cell and that four individuals would enter United States through Canada using false U.S. passports. The hoax led to a substantial effort to prevent the attack, including sending well over a hundred agents and officers to patrol malls and streets in Westwood and other areas.
Mohamed was taken into custody by authorities with the U.S. Border Patrol in Helena, Montana on April 29th, after he entered the country illegally, and then was brought to Los Angeles to face charges. Before his transfer to Los Angeles, Mohammed was interviewed by FBI Agents and admitted to making the false threat because of a dispute involving money allegedly owed to him by a former girlfriend.
Mr. Mohamed is scheduled to be sentenced on February 28, 2005 and faces a maximum of ten years in prison.
“Mr. Mohamed’s actions caused substantial panic and disruption, not to mention a significant and unnecessary diversion of law enforcement resources,” said U.S. Attorney Debra W. Yang.
According to Richard Garcia, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, “Mohammed’s guilty plea is extremely significant in that it serves as a deterrent to those who would make false threats of terrorism. Any threat of terrorist activity requires an enormous response by the law enforcement community – and at great cost. Notwithstanding the emotional toll suffered by the citizens of Los Angeles caused by Mr. Mohammed’s actions, revenues suffered from the loss of Los Angeles area – business and conservative estimates of the cost to law enforcement for added personnel and preventative measures during the elevated threat period were in the hundreds of thousands.
The investigation of the threat and the efforts to prevent the attack involved the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles Police Department, the California Department of Justice/California Anti-Terrorism Information Center, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Beverly Hills Police Department. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also provided substantial assistance in the successful prosecution. “The Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force is in place to protect all our citizens and will continue its diligent efforts to prevent a terrorist attack in our region,” said Ms. Yang.