3 Found With 1,000 Cellphones Held on Terrorism Charges in Michigan
Three Texas men were arraigned Saturday on terrorism-related charges after police found about 1,000 cellphones in their minivan, and prosecutors say they believe the men were targeting a bridge connecting Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.
Two of the men said they were trying to buy and sell phones to make money, and one said the money was intended to help pay for his brother’s college education.
A magistrate set bond at $750,000 for each of the men, who were charged with collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target for terrorist purposes. No pleas were made at the arraignment at a District Court in Caro, 80 miles north of Detroit.
Officials have not said what they think the men intended to do with the phones, most of which were prepaid TracFones. But Caro’s police chief said cellphones could be used as detonators, and prosecutors in a similar case in Ohio have said terrorists often use those phones because they are not traceable.
“All we did is buy the phones to sell and make money,” Louai Abdelhamied Othman told the magistrate. He said authorities had previously stopped the group in North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark E. Reene told the Saginaw News that investigators believed the men were targeting the 5-mile-long Mackinac Bridge. He declined to say what led investigators to that belief.
The arrests in Caro came three days after two Michigan men were arrested in Marietta, Ohio, where police said they aroused suspicions when they acknowledged buying about 600 phones in recent months at stores in southeast Ohio. Defense lawyers said the two planned to resell the phones to make money.