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Government Hero or Mysterious Con Man?

POSTED: 12:48 PM ET, 10/27/2008 by Derek Kravitz


An artist's rendering of the five defendants in the Fort Dix conspiracy trial: Shain Duka, from bottom left, Eljvir Duka, Dritan Duka, Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer and Serdar Tatar (Shirley Shepard / AP)

The mysterious paid informant who infiltrated a terrorism ring plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix will take the stand this week in federal court in New Jersey.

The story of Egyptian-born Mahmoud Omar is truly a strange one, and his testimony could show how government investigators get cooperating informants to work on such terrorism cases. Prosecutors say the 39-year-old Omar diligently worked with FBI agents over 16 months, recording hundreds of hours of conversations with the suspects, The Associated Press reports.

In contrast, defense attorneys for the five Muslim men on trial say Omar is simply a con man who received $238,000 for his work with the FBI, as well as a convicted felon charged in 2001 in connection with an elaborate counterfeit-check scheme.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick has said Omar and a second informant used by the FBI are "flawed" but reliable and said they were brought into the case for "their knowledge of the religion, culture and language of the suspects," Danielle Camilli of the Burlington County Times reported.

Fitzpatrick said they were "the means by which to record the suspects' own statements."

In that case, Omar faced a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison; he received six months after agreeing in March 2006 to help the FBI.

Defense attorneys claim the federal government overlooked many of Omar's shady dealings, including drug-dealing, chopping up cars for export to Egypt and the selling of his Social Security card for $3,000 during the course of the investigation, The Philadelphia Daily News reports.

Omar knew one of the five men on trial -- Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, who was a community college student.

Omar befriended Shnewer, obtained a map of Fort Dix from another defendant and arranged the sale of seven assault rifles to the group.

But one of the defense attorneys in the case argued that Omar "took the fake bravado" of the defendants and "twisted it into an alleged terrorist plot."

Omar wore a wire and recorded hundreds of hours of conversations with Shnewer and the others, and his house and car were both rigged with hidden cameras.

A second paid informant, Albanian-born Besnik Bakalli, had been convicted by an Albanian court in abstentia for shooting another man, reports the Daily News' Jason Nark.

By Derek Kravitz |  October 27, 2008; 12:48 PM ET
Previous: Picks of the Week: Landfills, Cigarettes and A Whistleblower | Next: Campaign Trail Mix, Gitmo Tribunal Probe, FDA Evidence Gap

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This sounds even more out of control than the Mark Fuhrman fiasco.

Posted by: andycutler | October 27, 2008 2:07 PM

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