Pakistani arrested in Times Square case pleads guilty

Aftab Ali was arrested in US during a probe into failed Times Square bombing.

Updated: Apr 14, 2011, 12:36 PM IST

Boston: A man arrested in Massachusetts during the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing has pleaded guilty to immigration and illegal money-transfer charges and now faces deportation to his native Pakistan.

Aftab Ali, also known as Aftab Khan, was sentenced on Tuesday in US District Court in Boston to time served under a plea agreement between prosecutors and defence lawyers. He has been placed in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is expected to deport him within weeks.

He did not face any terrorism-related charges.

The deal was reached because Ali, 28, had been in custody for 11 months since his arrest, and under federal sentencing guidelines would have faced only a six to 12-month sentence if convicted at trial, lawyers said.

Ali unwittingly supplied USD 4,900 to Faisal Shahzad, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, who was later convicted in the attempted bombing, federal authorities said.

He was one of three men arrested in New England in connection with the failed bombing attempt in May. He was arrested at the Watertown apartment he shared with his uncle during an early-morning FBI raid.

Ali came to the US in August 2009 on a 90-day visa to get married, Assistant US Attorney William Weinreb said in court. Under terms of the visa he was not allowed to work but soon landed a job at a Brookline gas station.

He did get married in November 2009, but not to the woman he had come to the country to marry originally. He faced the immigration charge because on his application for a longer term visa based on his marital status, he lied by saying he was not employed, Weinreb said.

The unlicensed money transmitting charges pertain to two transactions, including one when he acted as a middleman to supply Shahzad with the money used in the Times Square plot.

Ali "essentially was duped" into believing that Shahzad needed the money for medical treatments, said Miriam Conrad, his federal public defender. She declined to comment after court.

Before coming to the US, Ali had worked five years for a US military contractor in Kuwait, trucking supplies to American troops in Iraq, Conrad said, and sending money home to help for the care of his ailing father.

Authorities say Shahzad left an SUV rigged with a car bomb in New York`s bustling Times Square on May 01. The bomb never exploded, but smoke billowing from the vehicle cleared the area for 10 hours. No one was hurt.

Shahzad was arrested on May 03 on a Dubai-bound plane at Kennedy Airport.

Federal officials followed the money trail to Ali. Ali`s cell phone had in its memory Shahzad`s phone number and first name.

Ali, who was led in and out of court in handcuffs and flanked by his lawyer and an Urdu interpreter, declined to address the court when given the opportunity by the judge.

Bureau Report