4 Newburgh men charged in domestic terror plot
Four Newburgh men were arrested Wednesday night and accused of masterminding a plot to bomb two Jewish sites in the Bronx and shoot down military planes with guided missiles.
According to prosecutors, James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and LeGuerre Payen, all American citizens, were taken into custody at around 9 p.m. after planting what they thought were bombs in cars parked outside Riverdale Temple, the second largest synagogue in New York City, and the Riverdale Jewish Center. Authorities say the four suspects also planned to use guided missiles to shoot down military planes at the New York Air National Guard Base at Stewart Airport in Newburgh.
Officials at Stewart Airport say the base was never in danger.
"The base is adequately protected, and we didn't need to change anything," says Capt. Patrick Cordova, of the 105th Airlift Wing.
Authorities say as the men tried to obtain weapons for the attack, they came in contact with an FBI informant, who provided the group with an inactive missile and 30 pounds C-4 plastic explosives.
Imam Salahuddin Muhammad, the leader of a Newburgh mosque where one of the suspects occasionally prayed, says he believes the FBI informant enticed the four men to be part of the plot.
"A few people have come to me within a two-year period and said, 'this individual had offered me money, $25,000, to become part of his team,'" Muhammad says.
The mosque leader insists that the suspects, all four converts to Islam, wrongly interpreted the religious teachings.
"I love America," he says. "We are always trying to open our arms to the people. Do something to Jewish people? They're related to me."
The four suspects, who served time in state prison for convictions ranging from drugs to assault, were charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles. During a court appearance in White Plains, Judge Lisa Margaret Smith reminded the four suspects of their rights and appointed them attorneys. None of the defense attorneys, however, requested bail.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters Cromitie, the alleged leader of the terror plot, wanted to commit jihad because he was upset about the war in Afghanistan.
In the FBI's criminal complaint Cromitie was quoted telling the informant that "the best target was already hit," referring to the World Trade Center.
The four suspects are being held at the Westchester County Jail. They are scheduled to appear in court June 5. If convicted, the four men will face a maximum of life in prison and a mandatory minimum of 20 years behind bars.
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