FBI: 4 Newburgh men arrested in terror plot
Authorities on Wednesday night arrested four Orange County men they say formed a homegrown terror plot that targeted Jewish sites and military airplanes.
James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh, were charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, the U.S. Attorney's Office says.
The alleged terror plot was foiled by FBI agents working in concert with local police and a joint terrorism task force. Authorities say the four men apparently attended the same mosque in Newburgh and may have met and converted to Islam in prison.
Acting U.S. Attorney Lev L. Dassin says the defendants planned to detonate a car with plastic explosives to destroy the Riverdale Temple and Riverdale Jewish Center in the Bronx.
They also planned to shoot Stinger surface-to-air guided missiles at planes at the Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh.
Authorities say that a hatred of the West and civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan is what caused Cromitie, the alleged ringleader of the group, to tell an FBI informant in June of 2008 that he wanted to strike against the United States.
The FBI and other agencies say they monitored the men and provided an inactive missile and inert C-4 to the informant, who provided the mock explosives to the defendants. Federal officials say the group was relatively unsophisticated and believed the weapons were real.
The suspects were arrested Wednesday night, shortly after planting a mock explosive device in the trunk of a car outside the Riverdale Temple and two mock bombs in the back seat of a car outside the Riverdale Jewish Center, authorities say.
Investigators say the men, who appeared Thursday in a White Plains federal court, lived in an apartment on 144 Lake Drive in Newburgh.
Manny Colon, who has been friends with suspect Onta Williams for more than 20 years, says he can't believe the accusations that are being made.
"It's shocking to me. And I'm still in shock," says Colon. "I haven't slept, because he is a close friend of mine."
AP wire services were used in this report.