A former driver for Saudi Arabia's embassy in Washington appeared in federal court in Alexandria yesterday on charges that he used fraudulent documents to smuggle Egyptians into the United States from 1999 to 2001.
At least one of the Egyptians arrived at Dulles International Airport two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, federal officials said. But the investigation, which is ongoing, has not turned up any links to terrorism, they said.
Mohamed Abdel Wahab Yakoub, 60, an Egyptian national who resides in New Carrollton, made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court on the charges of smuggling aliens into the United States, officials said.
Yakoub, who was fired from the embassy in late 2002, was released after the hearing so he could be treated for a pressing medical condition, they said.
"This was a unique and troubling smuggling scheme from our perspective," Allan J. Doody, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Washington field office, said in a statement.
"Anytime you have an individual exploiting his post at an embassy to smuggle people into this country it raises serious homeland security concerns," Doody said.
Calls to Yakoub's home last night were not returned.
The charges focused on four Egyptians, but authorities said they were looking at several others who may have entered the country with Yakoub's assistance.
They said the four people named in the charging document would go before an immigration judge to determine their legal status.
Federal authorities allege that Yakoub was well known in certain circles in Egypt for his ability to help smuggle people into the United States for a fee.
A spokesman for the Saudi Arabian Embassy's press office said yesterday that officials needed to review Yakoub's personnel file before commenting.
An affidavit signed by Ramon Oyegbola, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and a member of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, said Yakoub charged each person $3,000 to $5,000.
In return, he used embassy stationery to write bogus letters to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo saying the Egyptians would be working for a Saudi diplomat in the United States.
Yakoub authenticated the letter with an embassy stamp that authorities said they suspect he stole. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo then issued a visa.