Four Men Found Guilty of Plotting to Bomb New York Synagogue and Jewish Community Center and to Shoot Military Planes with Stinger Missiles
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 18, 2010|
James Cromitie, aka Abdul Rahman, aka Abdul Rehman; David Williams, aka Daoud, aka DL; Onta Williams, aka Hamza; and Laguerre Payen, aka Amin, aka Almondo, were found guilty today of plotting to detonate explosives near a synagogue and Jewish community center in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York., and to shoot military planes located at the New York Air National Guard Base at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York, with Stinger surface-to-air guided missiles, announced Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The four men were arrested on May 20, 2009, in the Bronx after planting what they believed were live explosives at various target locations, and were subsequently indicted on June 2, 2009.
“Homegrown terrorism is a serious threat, and today’s convictions affirm our commitment to do everything we can to protect against it,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “The defendants in this case agreed to plant bombs and use missiles they thought were very real weapons of terrorism. We are safer today as a result of these convictions. We thank the members of the jury for their time and diligent service. We also commend the extraordinary work of the prosecutors, agents, and detectives who demonstrated unyielding dedication during the investigation and prosecution of this case.”
According to the complaint, indictment, and the evidence presented at trial before U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, in June 2008, an informant working with the FBI was approached by Cromitie in Newburgh. Cromitie explained to the informant that his parents had lived in Afghanistan and that he was upset about the war there. Cromitie expressed interest in returning to Afghanistan and said that if he were to die a martyr, he would go to “paradise.” Cromitie also expressed an interest in doing “something to America.” The following month, Cromitie and the informant discussed Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based designated foreign terrorist organization, with which the informant claimed to be involved, and Cromitie stated that he would be interested in joining the organization to “do jihad.”
During further meetings with the informant, Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Payen discussed their desire to attack certain targets in New York, including a synagogue in the Bronx and military aircraft located at the Air National Guard Base. Cromitie asked the informant to supply surface-to-air guided missiles and explosives for the planned operations. The informant responded that he could provide Cromitie with C-4 plastic explosives.
After Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Payen selected the synagogue and Jewish community center they intended to target and conducted surveillance of military planes at the Air National Guard Base, Cromitie, David Williams and Payen drove with the informant toward Stamford, Conn., to obtain what the defendants were told would be a surface-to-air guided missile system and three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) containing C-4 plastic explosive material. The informant provided the defendants with a Stinger surface-to-air guided missile provided by the FBI that was not capable of being fired, telling the defendants that he had obtained it from Jaish-e-Mohammed. The informant also provided three IEDs that each contained more than 30 pounds of inert C-4 plastic explosives, again telling the defendants that he had obtained them from Jaish-e-Mohammed. Cromitie, David Williams and Payen transported these weapons back to Newburgh. Two days later, Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Payen met to inspect the “missile system” and the “explosive devices” and to further discuss the logistics of the operation.
Cromitie, 44; David Williams, 29; Onta Williams, 34; and Payen, 29, were found guilty of counts one through seven in the indictment. Cromitie and David Williams were also found guilty of count 8 in the indictment. The charges and maximum penalties are described in the chart below.
|Count||Charge||Maximum Prison Term|
|1||Conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States||Life|
|2||Attempt to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States||Life|
|3||Attempt to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States||Life|
|4||Attempt to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States||Life|
|5||Conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles||Life*|
|6||Attempt to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles||Life*|
|7||Conspiracy to kill officers and employees of the United States||Life|
|8||Attempt to kill officers and employees of the United States||20 years|
*Counts Five and Six also carry mandatory minimum penalties of 25 years in prison.
The case was investigated by FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force—which principally consists of agents of the FBI and detectives of the New York City Police Department—the New York State Police and the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
This case is being handled by the office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Raskin, Adam Hickey, and Jason P.W. Halperin are in charge of the prosecution.