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HomeNewsArchivesU.S. ATTORNEY REFUTES TERROR-PLOT RUMORS

U.S. ATTORNEY REFUTES TERROR-PLOT RUMORS

Oct. 24, 2001 — A tidal wave of rumors has inundated the territory following federal law-enforcement agency raids on Arab-owned businesses Tuesday.
Rumors of terrorists plots to blow up the Hovensa oil refinery on St. Croix, the discovery of weapons and ammunition caches, and the seizure of millions of dollars were rife soon after a team of federal agents raided the three Plaza Extra supermarkets and other locations in the Virgin Islands on Tuesday morning as part of an investigation into illegal alien smuggling.
While Acting U.S. Attorney David Atkinson shot down most of the rumors on Wednesday, it was after news of the raid went national. CNN reported that search warrants were executed at the Plaza Extra stores on St. Croix and St. Thomas, but it also noted that federal officials refused to say whether the investigation into Plaza Extra was related to the FBI's ongoing search for terrorists following the Sept. 11 attacks on the mainland.
However, a few paragraphs in a Wednesday New York Post gossip column by Cindy Adams all but placed one of the Sept. 11 hijackers on St. Croix with Plaza Extra co-owner Fathi Yusuf in a plot to blow up the Hovensa refinery.
"It’s in the public’s interest to debunk the rumors flying around right now," Atkinson said. "Some of the rumors we’ve heard are plain untrue," he said, citing one about an explosive-laden vehicle having been found parked next to the refinery. "I don’t know where these rumors are coming from."
In regard to a rumor that $3 million to $4 million in cash had been discovered at the Plaza Extra stores, Atkinson said, "There was some money seized, but nowhere near that amount."
In a subsequent interview with Azekah Jennings, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Virgin Islands, the Source asked about rumors regarding the discovery of explosives, a trailer of weapons, and the arrest of an Arab man with a map of the Hovensa refinery in his possession.
Jennings would only say that if a "credible threat" existed, the public would be informed.
"If and when information regarding a threat comes to our attention, information will be disseminated as soon as possible," he said. "If there is a credible threat to the public, we’ll make it known."
Meanwhile, the search warrants and all attached documents related to Tuesday’s raids are under seal to protect the integrity of the investigation, Atkinson said. No arrests were made, and no charges have been filed in connection with the investigation. He declined to reveal the nature of the investigation.
Similar raids last year resulted in Yusuf, 60, pleading guilty to three counts of hiring three illegal immigrants from Palestine. That plea came in connection with an investigation in which several other St. Thomas businessmen with connections with the island's Arab community also pleaded guilty to charges that they tried to help the three men immigrate to the United States illegally.
The illegal immigrants were stopped at the airport in San Juan as they attempted to fly from St. Thomas to Florida in 1999, according to court records.
As part of Yusuf's plea bargain, he agreed to cooperate with future investigations and to make monthly reports of all of the employees at Plaza Extra, according to court papers. He was sentenced in September to a month of home confinement and a year of probation.

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Oct. 24, 2001 -- A tidal wave of rumors has inundated the territory following federal law-enforcement agency raids on Arab-owned businesses Tuesday.
Rumors of terrorists plots to blow up the Hovensa oil refinery on St. Croix, the discovery of weapons and ammunition caches, and the seizure of millions of dollars were rife soon after a team of federal agents raided the three Plaza Extra supermarkets and other locations in the Virgin Islands on Tuesday morning as part of an investigation into illegal alien smuggling.
While Acting U.S. Attorney David Atkinson shot down most of the rumors on Wednesday, it was after news of the raid went national. CNN reported that search warrants were executed at the Plaza Extra stores on St. Croix and St. Thomas, but it also noted that federal officials refused to say whether the investigation into Plaza Extra was related to the FBI's ongoing search for terrorists following the Sept. 11 attacks on the mainland.
However, a few paragraphs in a Wednesday New York Post gossip column by Cindy Adams all but placed one of the Sept. 11 hijackers on St. Croix with Plaza Extra co-owner Fathi Yusuf in a plot to blow up the Hovensa refinery.
"It’s in the public’s interest to debunk the rumors flying around right now," Atkinson said. "Some of the rumors we’ve heard are plain untrue," he said, citing one about an explosive-laden vehicle having been found parked next to the refinery. "I don’t know where these rumors are coming from."
In regard to a rumor that $3 million to $4 million in cash had been discovered at the Plaza Extra stores, Atkinson said, "There was some money seized, but nowhere near that amount."
In a subsequent interview with Azekah Jennings, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Virgin Islands, the Source asked about rumors regarding the discovery of explosives, a trailer of weapons, and the arrest of an Arab man with a map of the Hovensa refinery in his possession.
Jennings would only say that if a "credible threat" existed, the public would be informed.
"If and when information regarding a threat comes to our attention, information will be disseminated as soon as possible," he said. "If there is a credible threat to the public, we’ll make it known."
Meanwhile, the search warrants and all attached documents related to Tuesday’s raids are under seal to protect the integrity of the investigation, Atkinson said. No arrests were made, and no charges have been filed in connection with the investigation. He declined to reveal the nature of the investigation.
Similar raids last year resulted in Yusuf, 60, pleading guilty to three counts of hiring three illegal immigrants from Palestine. That plea came in connection with an investigation in which several other St. Thomas businessmen with connections with the island's Arab community also pleaded guilty to charges that they tried to help the three men immigrate to the United States illegally.
The illegal immigrants were stopped at the airport in San Juan as they attempted to fly from St. Thomas to Florida in 1999, according to court records.
As part of Yusuf's plea bargain, he agreed to cooperate with future investigations and to make monthly reports of all of the employees at Plaza Extra, according to court papers. He was sentenced in September to a month of home confinement and a year of probation.