By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
A former D.C. cabdriver pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to aid a group on the U.S. terrorism list by attending one of its training camps in Pakistan, Justice Department officials said.
Mahmud Faruq Brent, 32, of Baltimore was arrested in 2005. He had been scheduled to go on trial April 24 with a New York musician and a Florida doctor.
During a hearing in federal court in Manhattan, Brent acknowledged that he attended a training camp run by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2002, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office in New York.
The Islamic guerrilla group is fighting to drive India from the Kashmir region that straddles the border with Pakistan. Lashkar was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government in December 2001.
Brent, also known as Mahmud Al Mutazzim, faces a maximum 15 years in jail when he is sentenced July 10. The Ohio native could have received more than 20 years if he were found guilty in a trial.
His attorney, Hassen Ibn Abdellah, said Brent does not intend to cooperate with authorities or testify against the other defendants.
According to the U.S. attorney's office, authorities learned about Brent from Tarik Shah, a New York jazz musician and martial arts expert who has pleaded not guilty in the case. Shah told an undercover FBI agent that Brent, his former student, had complained about how "difficult" it was to be back in the United States and not be in training.
After Shah was arrested, he agreed to let the FBI secretly monitor a meeting he had with Brent at a hotel in Columbia, Justice officials said. There, Shah allegedly told Brent that he wanted to "travel." Brent responded that his contacts were "kinda gone" and that his main connection was "doing time now," according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office.
Nonetheless, Brent told his friend, going to the guerrilla camp was "one of the better decisions" in his life, according to the statement.
Brent held licenses to drive taxis and ambulances in the District and worked for LifeStar Response Corp., an ambulance service, in 2004.
U.S. authorities have linked Brent to Seifullah Chapman, one of more than a dozen local men charged in recent years in what prosecutors called a "Virginia jihad network." Chapman was sentenced to 65 years in prison for conspiring to support Lashkar-e-Taiba and other offenses.
That case gained notoriety in part because several of the "jihad" defendants played paintball in the Virginia countryside to prepare for warfare, prosecutors said.