Friday, February 18, 2011

Russell DeFreitas sentenced to life

An artist’s sketch of Russell DeFreitas from Brooklyn Federal Courthouse. He was sentenced to life in prison yesterday. 

NEW YORK—Russell DeFreitas, the convicted mastermind behind a plot to blow up aviation fuel tanks and a pipeline at John F. Kennedy International Airport was yesterday sentenced to life in prison.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn had alleged that the 67-year-old Guyana-born former airport cargo worker, hoped to “cause major economic loss in the United States” and sought financing for the plot from a Trinidad militant group. He was arrested in June 2007 after a former drug dealer-turned-informant infiltrated the scheme and recorded conversations detailing the plan.

DeFreitas, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and Abdul Kadir, a former member of Guyana’s Parliament, were convicted on multiple conspiracy charges last August following a nine-week trial. Kadir was sentenced to life in prison in December.

Abdel Nur, another Guyanese citizen, pleaded guilty shortly before trial to providing support for the plot. Nur, who is being treated for lung cancer, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in January.

A fourth man, Trinidadian Kareem Ibrahim, is expected to go to trial on related charges at a later date.
During yesterday’s proceedings, DeFreitas said nothing in court and showed no reaction when the penalty was imposed by Brooklyn Federal Judge Dora Irizarry.

“The defendant was a mastermind …this was his baby, this was his idea,” Irizarry said.
DeFreitas and his co-conspirators called the plot “Shining Light” because they hoped the ensuing fireball and conflagrations would be viewed like a beacon throughout the metro area.

Authorities said Defreitas told his confidantes that security was lax at the airport and that he knew all the back roads and weak spots.

The plotters are said to have sought financial and logistical support from terror leaders in the Caribbean and Iran.

DeFreitas, the court was told, appeared to be motivated by his hatred of American foreign policy and his own perceived mistreatment as an employee at the airport.

He also noted the airport attack would have devastating economic consequences for the U.S, inflict massive casualties – and batter the American psyche, which he thought harboured deep affection for former President Kennedy and the Kennedy name.

“It will take out the whole entire area,” Defreitas told the informant. “The whole of Kennedy will go up in smoke …A few people might escape, but escape to where? The Jamaica Bay?”

“Russell Defreitas plotted to commit a terrorist attack that he hoped would rival 9/11,” said Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn. “But law enforcement detected and thwarted the plot, saving lives.”
Prosecutors alleged that DeFreitas approached a confidential, government informant, a convicted drug dealer, to join the plot in 2006.

He allegedly told the informant and others that he had been planning an attack at the airport since he worked there in the 1990s, “before terrorism started in this country,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Defreitas allegedly traveled to Guyana and Trinidad in 2006 and in 2007, seeking financing, technical expertise and personnel for the attack.

However, his lawyers argued that he never took “concrete” steps to carry out the plot.

Prior to his arrest, Mr. DeFreitas had been living on-and-off for five months in an apartment in Brooklyn provided to him by the informant and may have been receiving food stamps.

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