Maryland man gets five years for fraud, after making terrorist threats
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
A Silver Spring man convicted of falsifying immigration documents had threatened to blow up the White House, the U.S. Treasury building, a federal courthouse and a Metro stop, vowing to "slaughter the enemies of Islam," federal prosecutors said Monday in court.
Brahim Lajqi, 51, was not charged with attempting to carry out any terrorist threats, but prosecutors outlined the allegations in an effort to persuade U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus to impose a penalty harsher than the six months or less in prison recommended by sentencing guidelines.
Titus agreed and handed down a five-year sentence, saying it was necessary for the protection of the public.
"This is a defendant who articulated repeatedly a desire to engage in the most serious form of terrorism aimed at symbols most important to our country, including the White House and the U.S. Capitol," Titus said during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
Lajqi, an ethnic Albanian who came to the United States through Mexico in the mid-1980s, is a self-described "extremist militant," who said he was trained by Bosnian Muslim rebels, according to court papers. He was angry about American military involvement in Kosovo in the 1990s, and "blamed all Albanian deaths in Kosovo on the United States," the court papers said. He also talked about targeting Jews, court papers say.
Lajqi had previously pleaded guilty to lying on immigration documents.
Lajqi's attorney, Gary W. Christopher, a federal public defender, said Lajqi was a "talker" and a "blowhard" who never planned to carry out any attack. He said Lajqi has lived in the United States for 27 years and has had no trouble with the law.
"We're here today to punish him for a crime, but not the crime he pled guilty to," Christopher said. "The question is whether he had the actual intention and wherewithal to carry out acts of mass destruction."
According to court papers, Lajqi and a confidential informant rode around the Washington area to view potential targets. Lajqi said the White House was his "number one spot" but also talked about targeting a Metro train at rush hour, the papers say.
During another trip, the documents state, he suggested blowing up the Treasury building to "make them bankrupt and broke," and noted that a dump truck would be a good place to hold explosives.
Lajqi told the informant that he knew of weapons suppliers in Montana and Canada and that one of his brothers had connections, authorities said.
The court papers say that Lajqi told the informant they "deserve a good bomb in Capitol Hill . . . and White House. Maybe Capitol Hill more because lots of Jews live there." That conversation occurred during a trip they took to West Virginia, where Lajqi unsuccessfully tried to obtain a commercial driver's license that he said could be used to move weapons.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Welsh said in court that authorities arrested Lajqi when they became concerned he might try to seek weapons. "He's not just a talker," Welsh said, "he's also an actor."