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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Terrorism

Mike Levine

Washington, DC

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VA Man Accused Of Illegally Aiding Somalis

February 23, 2010 - 7:17 PM | by: Mike Levine

Federal authorities have arrested a Virginia man for allegedly helping hundreds of Somalis, possibly including ones with terrorist ties, enter the United States illegally.

Anthony Joseph Tracy, 35, was arrested earlier this month, after admitting to U.S. authorities that he helped about 272 citizens of war-torn Somalia come to the United States illegally, according to documents filed in federal court.

Tracy allegedly set up a business in Kenya, Noor Services Limited, that procured fraudulent Cuban travel visas for Somalis, who would then travel from Kenya to Cuba and, ultimately, to the United States, according to court documents.

He allegedly traveled to Kenya in April 2009 to establish the business, and in the months afterward obtained fraudulent visas for as many as ten Somalis each week, court documents say. He allegedly charged between $100 and $1,000 for the fake documents.

While in Kenya, an al Qaeda-linked group from Somalia, known as al-Shabaab, approached Tracy asking for his assistance, according to what Tracy allegedly told authorities during a polygraph test earlier this month.

But, Tracy insisted, he “refused to help them.”

Nevertheless, three weeks before the polygraph test, on Jan. 15, he sent an email to an unnamed Somali citizen saying, “I will be back in Kenya at the end of February, so contact me then and I will assist you inshallah. I helped a lot of Somalis and most are good but there are some who are bad and I leave them to Allah,” according to court documents.

Tracy returned to the United States three days after sending that email, and he was interviewed by FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials upon arrival at JFK International Airport in New York.

It’s unclear what happened in the month afterward, leading up to his arrest on Feb. 5.

A public defender appointed for Tracy noted in court documents that while his client allegedly helped obtain fraudulent documents for Somalis, the government does not allege anything more.

“The government has failed to allege that Mr. Tracy assisted the Somalis to leave Cuba or ever spoke about travel to the United States with any of the Somalis whom he allegedly helped to obtain Cuban travel documents,” Assistant Public Defender Geremy Kamens said in documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Tracy converted to Islam while in prison in the 1990s. He first traveled outside the United States in 2008, but information about where and why he traveled at the time is currently “classified,” according to court documents.
 
Through the social networking site Facebook, authorities have located at least five Somali men and women that, allegedly with Tracy’s help, entered the United States illegally. Those men and women are now living in New York, Tennessee, North Carolina, Washington and Arizona, according to court documents.

Al-Shabaab, which has been fighting to establish an Islamic state in anarchy-stricken Somalia, has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

“Al-Shabaab has reportedly declared war on the United Nations and on Western non-governmental organizations,” documents filed in Tracy’s case note. “In early 2010, al-Shabaab declared its alliance with al-Qaeda.”

Tracy is currently being held without bond, accused by federal prosecutors of being a public threat and a flight risk.

But Kamens, Tracy’s attorney, described his client in court documents as a U.S. citizen, a husband and father, and a “businessman who established a lawful travel business in Kenya.”

For more than a year, the FBI has been investigating how more than 20 young Somali-Americans from the Minneapolis area and elsewhere were recruited to train and fight alongside al-Shabaab in Somalia.

That investigation has resulted in terrorism-related charges against at least 14 men, and many of those defendants have already pleaded guilty to the charges.

All this comes five months after FOX News reported exclusively that, despite public pronouncements saying al-Shabaab did not want to strike inside the United States, law enforcement officials were privately concerned al-Shabaab fighters could be smuggled into the United States to launch attacks.

“It’s certainly something that quite plainly is definitely on the radar,” one official with U.S. Customs and Border Protection told FOX News at the time. “We’re alert to that and doing our part to make sure that we address that threat.”

In fact, FOX News learned that in February last year, CBP sent an alert — or “issue paper” — about Somalia and al-Shabaab to offices across the country.

“It is feared that U.S. citizens and residents are being called to action in Somalia, as well as to support the illegal migration of Somalis to the United States,” said one sentence in the alert, as relayed to FOX News.

However, the CBP alert noted, the vast majority — if not all — of Somalis who have entered the country illegally have no intention of harming the United States.

“The continued deterioration of living conditions in Somalia is expected to sustain the illegal migration of Somalis to the United States,” the alert said, as relayed to FOX News. “The bleak future of Somalia has caused and will continue to cause refugees to seek a more sustainable existence, which includes risking thousands of dollars and their lives to be smuggled to the United States.”