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Monday, October 25, 2010

Queens man Syed Omair Ali leads feds on wild goose chase over bogus Times Square 'terror plot'

A Queens man led the Joint Terrorism Task Force on a wild goose chase for five months about a bogus plot to attack Times Square, tying up dozens of agents and costing the government more than $1 million, authorities said.

Syed Omair Ali, 25, even wore a wire to secretly record conversations with several associates he claimed were plotting to attack targets in New York City.

It turned out he was trying, because of a business dispute, to falsely finger an associate as a terrorist, officials said.

"The FBI took this information very seriously," Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Silver said in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Ali popped up on the feds' radar May 12 when he sent an email to the FBI's website claiming that he knew of a terrorist plot.

He identified one man who had "ties with the tribal guys back in Karachi, Pakistan, and has been planning on hurting our motherland," according to the criminal complaint.

Another person he identified planned "to fund those guys back in Karachi, get the appropriate training there and come back and do the maximum damage."

Silver said the investigation came to a head this month after Ali claimed that one of the plotters was traveling to Pakistan with a large sum of money and would be attending a terrorist training camp to prepare for the Times Square attack.

"I myself spent last Saturday night at FBI headquarters with probably 25 FBI and NYPD personnel and representatives of other agencies, and literally the agents worked around the clock," Silver said.

But investigators started doubting Ali's story and confronted him.

He folded like a cheap suit, admitting it was all a lie and that he was motivated in part to get one of the plotters in trouble because of a debt he owed the man, sources said.

Ali, a U.S. citizen, lived alone in Queens Village. His wife is in Pakistan. Unemployed, he formerly worked as a dispatcher for Pakistan International Airlines. He is being held without bail and faces up to eight years in prison for the allegedly false statements.

Defense attorney Kannan Sundaram did not return a call for comment.

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